Mining companies don't deny there are serious social problems around Rustenburg, but Impala Platinum CEO Terence Goodlace points out: "We cannot do everything for everybody.

"I strongly believe that some of the mining royalties we are paying to government - we paid R400m from Impala Rustenburg last year alone - should go to communities around the mines," he adds.

Johan Theron, Implats group executive: people, says the number of inhabitants of informal settlements around the mines has swelled because the mining companies prioritise local residents for job opportunities, attracting people from other areas so that they can be considered for those jobs.

Niël Pretorius, CEO of gold miner DRDGold, echoed Goodlace's views at the company's results presentation last week. He said a lot of social obligations are being transferred from government to the mines, as government is unable to fulfil them, and these are becoming a condition of mining licences. Those costs obviously mean mining companies will be able to afford to employ fewer people and are becoming less competitive globally.

"Rather just call it a tax, and put us in a position where we can measure that tax, as opposed to having fuzzy, indeterminable social obligations that put mining licences at risk," he said.

Claude Baissac, MD of risk consultants Eunomix, says the mines cannot take responsibility for all the communities around them, but more is expected from the mines because they are in remote locations where, before they arrived, there was very little industry. This is evident everywhere in the world.

"There's an expectation that mining companies should help communities, but in SA government, which is supposed to provide social and infrastructural services to its citizens, is failing," Baissac says.

"Everyone must share in the blame. Mining companies do spend money on social initiatives but whether they do it properly needs to be explored - it's not what they are good at; in theory, government is supposed to be better at it. Perhaps we need to bring in international expertise - there are many organisations and mining companies that have done stellar work elsewhere, as well as in SA."