This article traces multinational extraction companies' social and security policies in the ‘community belt’ next to their operations. A comparison between mining companies in the DRC in the early twentieth century and in the period post-2000 shows remarkable continuities in corporate community interventions. It demonstrates how contemporary participatory practices have partly replaced techniques of discipline and coercion seen in the colonial past. However, the discourse of ownership and participation runs alongside exclusionary forms of exercising power that have an old history. The liberal claim of self-determination is compromised by the recourse to indirect rule in order to secure stable working conditions.