Luanshya Off The Beaten Path

  • Looking from one tailings dam to another
    Looking from one tailings dam to another
    by Bwana_Brown
  • The Luanshya Concentrator complex
    The Luanshya Concentrator complex
    by Bwana_Brown
  • One of my classes in a 'Machines' lab
    One of my classes in a 'Machines' lab
    by Bwana_Brown

Most Recent Off The Beaten Path in Luanshya

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    Copper Mining

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Mar 10, 2008

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    The Luanshya Concentrator complex
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    Luanshya was home to the Roan Antelope Mine, where copper was first discovered in Central Africa, leading to the development of major mines in both Zambia and the Congo (Zaire). The mine got its name because of a hunter who took a shot at a Roan Antelope in the 1920s, but missed it and hit a rock instead. Upon examination of the rock, he noticed that there seemed to be mineral 'colours' indicative of possible mining opportunities. When I was living there, this Concentrator/Smelter complex on the edge of town was still going strong, dealing with the rich ores being brought up from the original Roan Antelope mine and a newer shaft developed at nearby Baluba. This whole 'Copperbelt Province' area of Zambia was dotted with mines, each with a small city or town growing up around the complex. Much of Zambia's early wealth came from this industry and it was the 4th largest producer of copper in the world back in the 1970s. However, a downturn in the price of copper and government mismanagement after they took over the mines led to a drastic cut in income for the country with resulting food shortages. In the last few years, most of the companies have been privatized again and the price of copper is soaring due to the worldwide demand for computer boards and electronics equipment in general. The original Roan Antelope mine is now closed but Baluba is still operating.

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    Zambia Institute of Technology

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Apr 12, 2007

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    Zambia Institute of Technology main gate
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    The Zambia Institute of Technology campus located in Luanshya was the one place in the country where those not attending the University of Zambia (Lusaka) could receive an education in various technical trades, including electricity. I arrived here fresh from 5-years studying in Canada to achieve my degree in Electrical Engineering, tasked with lecturing on various subjects in this field. It was the first time I had ever taught and luckily for me, the students were keen to learn and did not kick up any fuss in classes!

    The campus was quite modern with several large buildings housing the classrooms and laboratory facilities where various aspects of the technology could be demonstrated to the students. In addition, accommodation facilities included houses for the married staff, a block of flats for single staff members (I had one of those) and dormitories for the students.

    Most of the courses I taught had to have their curriculum developed from scratch, so I remember how difficult it was for me to prepare these without having had much practical experience myself (and no teaching experience). However, once I had the basic shell developed, things became easier the second, third... time around and it was not long before I was comfortably underway. It did give me a great appreciation for the work required to perform teaching! Actual classes only required 18 hours per week, but the preparation work and marking of tests took up quite a bit of extra time. Vacations were great, with time off at Christmas as well as about 2-months during the hot season break in October/November, during one of which I took off on a month-long 3000-mile hitch-hiking trip to Tanzania and Kenya. Toward the end of my contract I was thinking that I had better not extend it because this life was just too good and it was not 'real' - it was going to ruin me for 'real life' if I kept on like this!

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    Tailings Dams

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Feb 8, 2007

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    Waldo playing on a 'tailings dam'
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    In the processing of copper ore to get at the minerals in it, water is added to the material brought up from the mines. Once the slurry has passed through the concentrator, the leftover watery mixture becomes waste and these 'tailings' are usually stored on the surface behind huge dams. Such was the case in Luanshya, and these things were huge. This view shows my dog Waldo as he accompanied me on a little trip to explore one of these dams, with a distant plume of smoke rising from the Luanshya Concentrator. The second photo gives some idea of the size of these various dams, with my small car waiting below the one Waldo and I are on and a second dam visible off in the distance. The mopani forest is typical of what Zambian countryside looked like in those days, but I have heard that may have changed as it has been severely cut by the locals for firewood in the decades since I was last there.

    If not looked after properly, these tailings dams can be very dangerous, with various collapses causing havoc world-wide over the years. Zambia had a major disaster in 1970 when the nearby Mufilira mine accidentally breached a tailings pond above the area being mined. One million tons of the slurry flowed into the underground shafts, killing 89 miners.

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    Campus Life

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Dec 14, 2006

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    The teaching staff at ZIT
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    The Zambia Institute of Technology had been set up with financial help through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and a few of the staff members were Canadians being paid directly from Canada by CIDA (Mr. Price, and his wife at the left, was a major player based on his experience at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary). I was near the bottom of the totem pole as a 'Volunteer' under the Canadian University Services Overseas (CUSO) program and was paid a salary equivalent to what a Zambian would get for the same job. The staff also included a mixture of British, Nigerians, Danes, Norweigens, Germans, Poles and Zambians. Strangely enough, seven years after I had left ZIT and was then working in Papua New Guinea, I received a job application from the bearded British gentleman in the foreground - I guess he was still wandering the globe too! Sadly, the other bearded British lecturer in the light blue safari suit was stabbed and killed in his flat by intruders not long after I had finished my ZIT contract. The second photo shows some of the students and guests mingling at the open house with the expatriate on the left being a Polish lecturer. He sold me his old 35 mm Yashica camera for my month-long trip through East and North Africa at the end of my first 2 years (my original Olympus Trip35 had been stolen during a break-in at a temporary house while I was visiting friends in nearby Kitwe).

    It was always fun to mix in the staff room during breaks and it was here that a large mail pidgeon-hole contraption on the wall held incoming letters from home. In those days when a telegram was the fastest way to get a written message sent or received, there was always great excitement to get the latest 'snail mail' news and photos from home.

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    Local Housing

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Nov 14, 2006

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    Mkomfwa township on the outskirts of Luanshya
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    As was the case in all Zambian cities and towns, smaller nearby villages or townships housed many of the locals who had either lived here all their life or had gravitated toward the town due to the job opportunities provided by the copper mining industry. A Zambian I met within the first few weeks of arriving took me out to his village to show me around and meet his parents, so it was a great introduction to local life! This township of Mkomfwa (pronounced 'um-KOM-fwa') was very typical, with the friendly Zambian children rushing out to put on a show for any visitor.

    Later, after I had met Sue, I would sometimes have to drive our housegirl, Julia, back to her home in a similar township after she had fulfilled her babysitting duties for us if we happened to be out in the evening. It was always a bit of a chore finding one's way around these dark and unmarked roads at midnight!

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