This article aims to assess, on the basis of empirical evidence from South Kivu, what the future may hold for artisanal mining in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The eastern Congolese mining sector is undergoing a period of profound change. Industrial exploitation, while still nascent in the Kivu provinces, appears poised to expand with a number of transnational mining companies currently exploring vast concessions. At the same time, there is a range of new initiatives to regulate and formalise the artisanal mining sector, but early evidence shows that they have failed to have a positive impact. We identify a number of factors hindering the effective implementation of these initiatives, namely state capacity and political will, the complex dynamics and power relations in the current system of artisanal mining and trade, the importance of these activities for livelihoods and the lack of alternative livelihoods. We also provide suggestions for future interventions, including initiatives to promote a viable artisanal mining sector which contributes to broader local development.