As a large part of South Africa's economy is based on the mining industry, this research focused on exploring the coping strategies of business leaders in the mining industry during an economic downturn. Using qualitative research within a constructivist-interpretive paradigm, the researchers sought a deeper understanding of how mining leaders cope during an economic downturn. A purposive sample of seven executive mining leaders of different mining houses was interviewed and data was analysed using Atlas.ti. A conceptual framework for understanding coping strategies at the individual, group and organisational levels for business leaders during an economic downturn was developed and is discussed here. This study contributed to theory and practice by focusing on coping responses to specific situations within a specific context instead of on general coping strategies.