Thousands have had to leave their homes due to open-cast mines
Nearly 20,000 South Africans have been displaced by mining giant Anglo American in its search for platinum, a BBC File on 4 investigation has found.
It was also shown evidence the UK-based firm had polluted water sources and scores of miners had been killed.
The rising price of platinum has seen a new wave of open-cast mines in South Africa, the world's largest producer.
Anglo American has said it is treating safety as a priority and that it is aiming to make communities better off.
The increased demand for platinum, used in the electronics industry and in catalytic converters for cars - has caused world prices for the metal to soar.
Nearly 90% of the world's platinum reserves are in southern Africa and the largest producer by far is Anglo American through its subsidiary, Anglo Platinum.
In the last five years, thousands of people were forced to leave their ancestral lands and move to purpose-built townships financed by Anglo Platinum, which has offered compensation and new land.
Villagers who have resisted claim they have been shot with rubber bullets by the police.
Last October, the charity Action Aid conducted water sampling around Anglo Platinum's mines in the Limpopo province and found sources used by schools and villages were unfit for human consumption.
It said they had been contaminated with nitrates, which can cause a potentially fatal blood disorder and stomach cancer.
Anglo Platinum has also been criticised over safety standards - on average, around 20 people a year are killed whilst working in its mines.
Anglo American has said it is treating safety as a priority, is looking into the issue of contaminated water and that the majority of people "relocated" to make way for its mines agree to move.
"In terms of resettlement our objective is to ensure that we at least leave the communities no worse off and our objective is to make them better off," Edward Bickham, Group Head of External Affairs, told File On 4.
Hear the full story on BBC Radio 4: File On 4 Tuesday 25 March 2008 at 2000 GMT, repeated Sunday 30 March at 1700 GMT or online at the File on 4website.