Commodity-dependent economies are susceptible to price volatility in global markets, which makes long-term planning difficult. Mineral resources are also finite. Diversification through immediately available mineral wealth is critical to long-run wellbeing. However, diversification funded by mineral wealth requires material improvement in the institutions governing mineral extraction. A better understanding of the incentives generated by formal and informal institutions is critical for successful implementation of resource governance initiatives on the continent. Reflections on South Africa’s mining governance and industrial relations frameworks demonstrate how important context-specific understanding is for crafting policies that gain meaningful development recognition.