Mining in Southern Africa

Copper Belt, Cu refinery Ndola. Image from the Thomas C. Denton papers, American Heritage Center.

Copper Belt, Cu refinery Ndola. Image from the Thomas C. Denton papers, American Heritage Center.

The American Heritage Center is proud of its mining collections that cover mining industry records from all over the world and give an interesting view into the evolution of mining over the years. These collections often also give an interesting view into life around the mine. Through the Frank A. Ayer and Thomas C. Denton Collections, one gets a view into mining in Southern Africa from the 1930’s through to the 1960’s.

Rhodesia Ferrochrome Plant at Gwelo, Rhodesian Alloys. Image from the Thomas C. Denton papers, American Heritage Center.

Rhodesia Ferrochrome Plant at Gwelo, Rhodesian Alloys. Image from the Thomas C. Denton papers, American Heritage Center.

Frank A. Ayer (1886-1976) was a 1911 graduate of the Columbia school of engineering and specialized in copper mining. His collection includes papers from his mining career Ayer was general manager of the Roan Antelope Copper Mines, Ltd. in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from 1933-1941. Included in his collection are the British South Africa Company Directors’ Report and Accounts (1932-39) with map of Rhodesia and surrounding areas and BSAC interests in those areas as well the Annual Reports from 1930 to 1939 for Mufulira Mine. The Mufulira Copper Mines LTD Employee Representative Committee Minutes (8 April 1937 – September 1940) familiarize with the things that concerned the native workers at that time such as ventilation of their square huts, whether to ban or not native hawkers in the townships and the overcrowding in single quarters. Of anecdotal value are the newspaper clippings about a leopard spotted on the highway, a venomous snake found in a car and several lion maulings in surrounding areas in Northern Rhodesia.

Salisbury natives watching shovel in foundation excavation. Image from the Thomas C. Denton papers, American Heritage Center.

Salisbury natives watching shovel in foundation excavation. Image from the Thomas C. Denton papers, American Heritage Center.

Thomas Chadbourne Denton (1899-1975) worked extensively in the mining industry and his slides are from his time at the U.S. Bureau of Mines where he served as the Bureau’s African specialist in the Foreign Minerals Division. The collection contains slides taken by Denton between 1957 and 1961 on several trips to Africa. Whilst the collection contains many pictures of mines and mine scenes in different African countries including South Africa, Namibia, Rhodesia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone it is doubly interesting for its pictures of general scenes in Africa. Denton often took pictures of his road journeys to and from the mines and this leads to an interesting group of pictures of things that range from the then-recently completed Kariba Dam and Power station, Kruger National Park, the Elisabethville Airport in the Belgian Congo and Cecil John Rhodes’ grave. Also included are pictures of native housing and community centers at mines in Rhodesia, Mozambique and South West Africa

-Chido Muchemwa, Graduate Assistant

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