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ABSTRACT

African rural dwellers have faced depressed economic prospects for several decades. Now, in a number of mineral-rich countries, multiple discoveries of gold and precious stones have attracted large numbers of prospective small-scale miners. While their ‘rush’ to, and activities within, mining sites are increasingly being noted, there is little analysis of miners' mobility patterns and material outcomes. In this article, on the basis of a sample survey and interviews at two gold-mining sites in Tanzania, we probe when and why miners leave one site in favour of another. Our findings indicate that movement is often ‘rushed’ but rarely rash. Whereas movement to the first site may be an adventure, movement to subsequent sites is calculated with knowledge of the many risks entailed. Miners spend considerable time at each site before migrating onwards. Those with the highest site mobility tend to be more affluent than the others, suggesting that movement can be rewarding for those willing to ‘try their luck’ with the hard work and social networking demands of mining another site.