Aerial view of mining activities

The Mitigation Hierarchy in South Africa

While Africa is undergoing a necessary development trajectory, poorly-planned infrastructure projects can have disastrous impacts on biodiversity, the ecosystem services on which many people rely, and the economic sustainability of the projects themselves. The mitigation hierarchy addresses this problem by requiring that a project’s significant negative environmental impacts are anticipated and sequentially avoided, minimised, rehabilitated, and/or offset.

South Africa’s environmental laws and policies call for a hierarchical approach to impact mitigation. However, it is widely acknowledged that various challenges frequently prevent the aims of the mitigation hierarchy from being achieved in practice. The Endangered Wildlife Trust, BirdLife South Africa and Enviro-Insight are collaborating to develop Best Practice Guidelines for Implementing the Mitigation Hierarchy in South Africa.

Best Practice Guidelines:

Implementing the Mitigation hierarchy

These Guidelines will support the improved implementation of the mitigation hierarchy by specialists, environmental assessment practitioners, and developers. They will also enable competent authorities to better assess adherence to the mitigation hierarchy in projects seeking environmental authorisation and assist them in setting robust licencing conditions to hold developers accountable for implementing mitigation activities.

The project’s first stage has now been completed, and a literature review and draft guideline framework were produced. These outputs were workshopped with government representatives and South African and foreign experts. The drafting process is now underway, and it is envisaged that a full draft of the Guidelines will be ready for further consultation in early 2023. Once the Guidelines are finalised, a training programme will be undertaken to support their utilisation, and several more concise products will be distilled from the Guidelines for individual target audiences.

image of cooling towers

Mitigation Hierarchy Training Videos

Session 1: Introduction and Background
Session 2:
The Mitigation Hierarchy and Significance Assessment
Session 3:
The Preventative Component of the Mitigation Hierarchy
Session 4:
The Remediative component of the Mitigation Hierarchy
Session 5:
Applying the Mitigation Hierarchy in EIA Reports and Conditions of Authorisation