How does the future look for the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on non-renewable resources, and how can such livelihoods become more sustainable? Together with Jonas Ø. Nielsen, Cecilie Friis and Jesper B. Jønsson, I explore these questions, taking departure in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector of Tanzania.

In Tanzania, it is becoming increasingly difficult for miners to extract gold as the deposits are decreasing. Many worry that artisanal and small-scale mining will not continue to be a viable livelihood option and miners are looking to diversify their livelihoods. However, it is not always easy to find alternative livelihood options in rural Tanzania. It requires capital to re-invest in other sectors, and most artisanal miners barely earn enough to sustain life.

Artisanal and small-scale mining is a vital livelihood practice around the world, especially in the Global South, employing approximately 40 million people with 150 million indirectly depending on it. Consequently, mineral exhaustion is a big challenge and one that can have a significant impact on our ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in regards to poverty alleviation (SDG 1) and securing resilient and sustainable communities (SDG 11).

Yet, the artisanal and small-scale mining sector has been largely absent in SDG agendas and the issue of mineral exhaustion has not been given much attention. Inevitably, minerals will become exhausted, and livelihood diversification and exit strategies are therefore important to safeguard sustainable livelihoods. Future interventions must encompass such strategies in order to promote a more sustainable future for all.

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