Old Bwana Mukubwa Tourism Centre

Useful Information

Location: Bwana Mkubwa, 10 km southeast of Ndola
Classification: MineCopper Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1902 copper mine opened.
1912 concentrator for copper ore erected.
1913 first Copperbelt mine to produce copper on commercial basis.
1914 closed due to World War I.
1918 flotation process for extracting copper from low grade ores developed.
1922 flotation process introduced.
1931 mine closed.
1998 mine privatised and reopened short term.
2008 mine closed.
2010 reopened by First Quantum Mineral Group to process stockpiled ore from Congo.


Bwana Mkubwa is located at the southern extension of the Zambian Copperbelt, an area with huge amounts of copper ores.


At Bwana Mukubwa lies the oldest copper mine of Zambia, opened in 1902. A visitor center offers insights into the mining history and tours into the mine and the processing plant.

Bwana M'kubwa means big chief or great master. According to local lore te place was named by William Collier and Jack Donohoe after Francis Enilius Fletcher Jones, Native Commissioner, who was known to the locals as the Bwana Mkubwa.

Collier and Donohoe found ancient copper workings at this place, led there by locals. Archaeological remains show that the mining in this area started during the 14th and 15th century. This raised the interest of mining explorers from Europe around 1900, and several copper deposits were discovered and subsequently exploited.

Bwana Mkubwa was opened in 1902 by the Rhodesia Copper company. In 1910 the Bwana Mkubwa Copper Mining Company, registered in London, was formed. After World War I, in 1918, the mine developed a flotation process for extracting copper from low grade ores. This processing technique became known as Perkins Process. This process was very important for the later development of copper mining - today only low grade ores are still mined - but it was disastrous to the company. After it was introduced in 1922 the company suffered massive losses and finally the mine was closed in 1931.

The modern copper processing plant was built in 1998, producing both copper cathode and sulphuric acid. Originally constructed as a five-year-life short-term plant the production boosted and the mine lived 10 years until it was closed in 2008. When the border between Zambia and Congo was reopened in 2010, First Quantum Minerals (FQM) restarted the mine processing plant to process stockpiled ore from the depleted Lonshi mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The new tourist centre named Old Bwana Mukubwa Tourism Centre is built by the company Meeting Centre on the grounds of the historic mine. In collaboration with the Copperbelt Tourism Council they try to develop tourism for the area. Scheduled opening of the center was late 2013.