Shrinking mining cities — once prosperous settlements servicing a mining site or a system of mining sites — are characterized by long‐term population and/or economic decline. Many of these towns experience periods of growth and shrinkage, mirroring the ebbs and flows of international mineral markets which determine the fortunes of the dominant mining corporation upon which each of these towns heavily depends. This dependence on one main industry produces a parallel development in the fluctuations of both workforce and population. Thus, the strategies of the main company in these towns can, to a great extent, determine future developments and have a great impact on urban management plans. Climate conditions, knowledge, education and health services, as well as transportation links, are important factors that have impacted on lifestyles in mining cities, but it is the parallel development with the private sector operators (often a single corporation) that constitutes the distinctive feature of these cities and that ultimately defines their shrinkage. This article discusses shrinking mining cities in capitalist economies, the factors underpinning their development, and some of the planning and community challenges faced by these cities in Australia, Canada, Japan and Mexico.