• Following Zambia’s independence in 1964, several thousand non-Zambian Africans were identified and progressively removed from the Copperbelt mines as part of a state-driven policy of ‘Zambianisation’. Curiously, this process has been overlooked among the multitude of detailed studies on the mining industry and Zambianisation, which is usually regarded as being about the removal of the industrial colour bar on the mines. This article challenges that perspective by examining the position and fate of non-Zambian African mineworkers, beginning with patterns of labour recruitment established in the colonial period and through the situation following independence to the protracted economic decline in the 1980s. In it I make two arguments. First, Zambian nationalism and the creation of Zambian citizenship were accompanied on the Copperbelt by the identification and exclusion of non-Zambians, in contrast to a strand in the literature which stresses that exclusionary nationalism and xenophobia are relatively recent developments. Second, one of the central and consistent aims of Zambianisation was the removal of ‘alien’ Africans from the mining industry and their replacement with Zambian nationals. This was a key objective of the Zambian government, supported by the mineworkers’ union.