Accepted paper:

The land where good dreams remained: mining-led relocation and immiseration in rural South Africa


Sonwabile Mnwana (University of Fort Hare)

Paper short abstract:

Mining-led relocation has intensified resistance to mining in rural South Africa.This contribution argues that resistance to mining could be rooted in the state and business failure to grasp the complexities of rural social and cultural milleau during and after community relocation processes.

Paper long abstract:

South Africa holds more than 80% of the world's platinum reserves. Most platinum deposits are located on rural land belonging to impoverished local communities. Recently, mining-led relocation has triggered local resistance to mining in these areas. Between 2006 and 2015 Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) relocated about 1000 families - more than 7000 people - from two villages in South Africa's Limpopo province. This massive relocation project was to enable Amplats to expand its vast open cast operation. This relocation captured the attention of global audience when a research report by Action Aid (an international human rights NGO) detailed human rights abuses and poor compensation of villagers by the mine. The mine refuted these allegations mainly arguing that its processes were in line with international principles for resettlement management. This contribution draws on detailed ethnographic research conducted in the relocated village of Ga-Sekhaolelo in South Africa's Limpopo province to demonstrate some of the less reported impacts of mine-led relocation. Our findings detail how cultural dislocation, gender and generational inequalities and tensions at the family level, loss of farming land and livelihoods, and spiritual disconnection with ancestral graves have led to significant community resistance to mining. We argue that, the current policy and global relocation principles do not capture the complexities of the rural social and cultural milleau in Africa, particularly the local meanings of land. Such a phenomenon renders the post-apartheid minerals reform less fulfilling when held against its rhetorical promise of bringing employment opportunities and development.

panel Econ25
Mining's connective and disruptive effects on human settlement in Africa