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Legal Toolbox

Environmental Management Frameworks

Section 24(3) of the National Environmental Management Act allows the Minister or MEC to prepare a draft Environmental Management Framework (EMF) which identifies the geographical area to which it applies, including the sensitivity, extent, interrelationship and significance of such attributes which must be taken into account by every competent authority.


In order for the Minister or MEC to compile a draft Environmental Management Framework  they must:

  1. Follow a public participation process
  2. Upon receiving any representations, objections and comments, review the draft accordingly.
  3. If the Minister or MEC adopts an Environmental Management Framework, applications for environmental authorisation in or affecting the geographical area to which the framework applies must be considered.

Type of protection

Once an Environmental Management Framework has been finalised, it does not have the power of law although it is used to inform the decision-making process of competent authorities.


  • Pre-authorisation consideration: The Environmental Management Framework informs the competent authority on whether or not to grant an environmental authorisation. Where an Environmental Management Framework clearly carries proof of the ecological sensitivity of an area, it is a policy which can inform the decision-making process of the competent authority to refuse an environmental authorisation. This can particularly be useful for the protection of water source areas.


  • Not legislation: The Environmental Management Framework is only a policy document and not legislation. In the Magaliesberg Protection Association case, it was found that a competent authority’s failure to consider an Environmental Management Framework would not render his/her decision invalid where he/she considered another document that presents similar information, such as an environmental assessment report.
  • Seldom considered by the Department of Mineral Resources when granting mining rights: Although it should inform the decision-making process of officials who wish to develop any land included in an Environmental Management Framework , the Department of Mineral Resources seldom takes this into consideration.