Land, conflict and radical distributive claims in South Africa's rural mining frontier

Sonwabile Mnwana*, Andrew Bowman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article presents an analysis of mine-community conflict in South Africa's rural platinum belt. We draw on a combination of detailed ethnographic research material and multi-scalar analysis of the political economy of mining policy. Our analysis reveals that such conflict is rooted in local claims beyond the labour market – in demands for exclusive control over land and mineral rents. The article engages with Ferguson's (2015) conceptualisation of the politics of distribution to demonstrate that radical claims on mining industry rents have escalated despite the South African state's introduction of progressive redistributive legislation. The post-apartheid institutional arrangements developed to mitigate inequalities in and around mining and address the historical exclusion of the black population have not proved effective. Instead, these measures have been undermined and subverted by powerful groups who funnel mineral rents into new forms of elite accumulation. This phenomenon generates and exacerbates inequality and conflict, because these redistributive institutions tend to exclude rural residents who hold customary rights to the mineral-rich land.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100972
JournalExtractive Industries and Society
Early online date17 Jul 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Jul 2021


  • conflict
  • distributive claims
  • land
  • mining
  • state policy


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