School of Global Studies

Mining, Morality and Corporate Social Responsibility

Dinah Rajak

This research examines the rise of corporate social responsibility (CSR) through an ethnography of Anglo American, the world’s third biggest mining company, tracking the practices of CSR from global strategy to local implementation; from the corporate boardrooms of London, to the mineshafts of South Africa’s platinum belt. 

In 2002, Anglo American became the first global company to provide HIV treatment ‘free of charge’ to its South African workforce, a cornerstone of its CSR agenda.  The workplace treatment programme connects multiple actors in what this research describes as ‘a moral economy of corporate responsibility’.  In South Africa the state Antiretroviral therapy roll-out has been delayed and patchy, placing pressure on the private sector to fill the vacuum.  Within the mining industry, where HIV prevalence is around 23-25%, the situation has been compounded by the migrant labour system. 

aids poster

This then, is part of a broader movement aiming to harness the resources of multinational enterprise to combat global health crises and supersede the weakness of state healthcare systems.  However, this win-win formula obscures the boundaries between the demands of capital and human care, tying the physical health and sexual conduct of mineworkers to the financial health of the company and the political economy of global corporate capitalism.   While the beneficiaries of this mission constitute a vanguard of ART recipients, the disjuncture between corporate responsibility and state provision translates into an uneven topography of authority and service provision, accentuating the socio-economic inequalities according to which the trajectories of the epidemic have long been patterned.


Rajak, D. (2010) “HIV/AIDS is Our Business”: The Moral Economy of Treatment in a Transnational Mining Company.  Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute  (forthcoming).

Rajak, D.  (2009) “I am the Conscience of the Company": Responsibility and the Gift in a Transnational Mining Corporation' in Katherine E. Browne and B. Lynne Milgram (eds) Economics and Morality: Anthropological Approaches. Society for Economic Anthropology Annual Monograph Series. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, pp.  211-232, 2009

Rajak, D. (2008) “Uplift and Empower”: The Market, The Gift and Corporate Responsibility on South Africa’s Platinum Belt’, Research in Economic Anthropology, vol 28, pp.  297-324, 2008.