Copper has been mined and exported by the region's inhabitants for centuries. From the 17th to the 19th cent. much of the province was controlled by the Luba and Lunda kingdoms. In the late 19th cent. M'Siri, a Nyamwezi trader from what is now central Tanzania, founded a kingdom in the area that lasted until he was killed by the Belgians in 1891. Under Belgian rule (1884-1960), mineral resources were exploited by Belgian firms and the province was developed much more rapidly than the rest of the country.
In July, 1960, after the Congo became independent, Katanga proclaimed itself a republic and seceded from the central government. Under the leadership of its president, Moise Tshombe, and with Belgian aid, Katanga fought off repeated attempts by the central government to seize control. Disorder was widespread, and the central government invoked the help of the United Nations. In 1960, President Tshombe reluctantly allowed a small UN force to enter Katanga. Later a considerable number of UN troops, committed to a policy of nonintervention, were stationed in Katanga to oversee the withdrawal of foreign troops. The Belgian troops were slowly withdrawn, but white mercenary officers continued to command in the army of Katanga. There was recurrent trouble between the UN force and the Katangese, and attempts at reconciliation with the central government proved fruitless.
The situation grew steadily more volatile until early 1961, when the former premier Patrice Lumumba was murdered in Katanga. Under a new, stronger UN mandate the international force took control (1961) of Elisabethville (now Lubumbashi) and other strongpoints. An agreement (Dec., 1961) for reintegrating Katanga into the country proved abortive. In Jan., 1963, UN troops routed Tshombe's forces and ended the Katanga secession.
In 1966 the central government nationalized Union Minière du Haut Katanga, the Belgian firm that had controlled most of Katanga's mining interests. It was renamed Gécamines. In 1971 Katanga was renamed Shaba; the original name was restored in 1997. In the 1970s further insurrections were put down by the government with help from foreign nations, and in the 1990s there was again talk of secession. During the civil war that began in 1998, Katanga was divided between government and rebel control. Despite the 2002 peace treaty ending the civil war, Katanga has experienced factional fighting that has displaced thousands. Gécamines has had difficulty in maintaining its operations and exporting its copper.