South Africa presents a unique case for mining development and impacts on sustainability because the lines between the mining industry and the state are unclear and due to the increasing inequality between citizens. This questions the potential for citizens to hold mining industries (and government) accountable for environmental abuse. This paper examines the ability of civil society actors to take action against (coal) mining development by way of social capital collective actions in the natural tourist destination in Dullstroom. Semistructured interviews were conducted with various social actors and are reported in this paper. The paper highlights that local responses to engage in social capital against mining development for local sustainability are best understood in relation to the socio‐economic and political positioning of individuals and ethnic groups. Overall, class and race differences, a tough farming environment, and perceptions and priorities of mining versus tourism jobs undermined capacity for social capital to act against mining risks. There is a need for social capital bridging and linking ties to protect the environment for tourism growth and long‐term human‐environment sustainability
This paper explores the potential to converge the theory of political ecology with the environmental justice discipline as means to promote more effective civil society actions against macro-economic risks, whilst analysing the case of South Africa. Such a convergence could result in mutual benefit for both arenas that already share a commitment towards justice. Whilst political ecology has focused on theoretical perspectives, which are mostly applied in rural areas, and examined justice in a larger macro-economic framework, environmental justice has been confined to an empirical focus at a local urban level, which is unable to link local struggles to larger political economic frameworks. Additionally, both arenas generally view civil society as coherent entities that act against the state and industry. Both disciplines should re-evaluate geographic scales and reconfigure romanticised understandings of civil society actions in order to attain justice.