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Document Abstract
Published: 2014

Youth in Tanzania’s urbanizing mining settlements: prospecting a mineralized future

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Over the last fifteen years many African countries have experienced a ‘mining takeoff’. Mining activities have bifurcated into two sectors: large-scale, capital-intensive production generating the bulk of the exported minerals, and small-scale, labour-intensive artisanal mining, which, at present, is catalyzing far greater immediate primary, secondary and tertiary employment opportunities for unskilled African labourers. Youth residing in mining settlements, have a large vested interest in the current and future development of mining.

Focusing on Tanzania as typical of the emerging ‘new mineralizing Africa’, this paper, examines youth’s role in mining based on recent fieldwork in the country’s northwestern gold fields. Youth’s current involvement in mining as full-fledged, as opposed to part-time, miners is distinguished. The attitudes of secondary school students towards mining as a form of employment and its impact on economic and social life in mining communities are discussed within the context of the uneasy transitions from an agrarian to a mining-based country, from rural to urban lifestyles, and the growing scope and power of foreign-directed, capital-intensive, corporate mining relative to local  labour-intensive artisanal mining.

Youth are playing an active role in the emergence of new economic sectors and are currently engaging in and shaping the artisanal mining sector. Nonetheless, there is a discontinuity with the past in terms on the part of full-time, youthful miners, intent on improving their lives and gaining autonomy, who tend to be completely removed from elder or parental control and are rarely planning to return to their home areas. They are no longer endeavouring to earn bridewealth payments and return to their home areas to farm, which marks a distinct break in the inter-generational contract between older and younger generations. So too, secondary school students’ criticisms of their parents’ absence from the home and their lack of parental care, can be interpreted as a new tension between the young and older generation.

Artisanal mining, particularly that related to mineral rushes, places high demands on male mobility and has an erosive effect on family life. There are several other drawbacks: artisanal mining is physically dangerous, its excavation depth is technically limited and as large-scale mining expands, it is bound to contract spatially as government-granted large-scale mineral rights increasingly gain precedence over those of artisanal miners, displacing artisanal miners and fuelling their conflictual incursions on large-scale mining. Most miners and mining settlement residents see artisanal mining as an opportunity of the moment, not one that can be counted on far into the future. Thus Tanzanian youth, whether they are full-time or part-time miners think of artisanal mining as a temporary fix or more optimistically a stepping stone to gaining capital to invest in another occupation elsewhere. In other words, for most youth, despite all its pitfalls, mining can be a means to a better future but not their chosen future.

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D. Bryceson

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