The corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda has been a part of the global debate on socio-economic development for many decades. Countless claims have been made that CSR can contribute towards more inclusive development and the alleviation of poverty. This briefing examines the concept and role of CSR in the mining industry of South Africa. The mining case study reviewed here demonstrates that key implementation challenges are a lack of co-ordination and alignment with the government’s development plans, at both national and local level, coupled with weak monitoring and evaluation. Too frequently CSR programmes are centred on business-orientated objectives that are not fully integrated with broader, country-level development plans. This briefing highlights how the current CSR agenda and its practice may be unsuited to effectively addressing social problems and delivering socio-economic development plans in South Africa.