Power over rural land has become more and more concentrated in the hands of local chiefs in post-apartheid SA. This is particularly so in areas earmarked for mining. I have spent more than a decade studying the multiple impacts of platinum mining on rural communities in the North West and Limpopo. The research has revealed widespread grassroots discontent, significant resistance to mining expansion and to local chiefs, and mounting exclusive group claims over the platinum-rich land. This matters because mining affects the livelihoods of millions of South Africans. That SA holds unparalleled reserves of platinum group metals reserves is well known. But platinum hasn’t been an economic saviour for the ordinary residents in the mine villages who face grim living conditions. Most are characterised by extreme poverty, severe inequalities and high unemployment. This is even though some of these communities have been recipients of substantial mining revenues. But they are controlled and di...

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