Matthew Burnell

Local Partner, Johannesburg



Matthew Burnell's practice focuses on environmental and climate change law. He has advised and assisted clients in various sectors including mining, oil and gas, power and electricity, agriculture and infrastructure.

Matthew's practice covers all components of environmental and climate change law. He has acted for and advised clients:

  • In administrative appeals and judicial review applications;
  • In complex M&A transactions regarding the transferring of permits, the management and transfer of pollution and contamination liabilities and associated due diligences;
  • In project finance transactions regarding the compliance requirements under the Equator Principles in the relevant financing agreements and project agreements;
  • On Environment, Social and Governance matters, including the development of risk management tools related to ESG risks, the disclosure of information and sustainability reporting;
  • On director, shareholder, lender and operator liability arising from environmental and climate change impacts;
  • On investigations by enforcement officers and administrative compliance notices;
  • On developing public participation frameworks; and
  • Agreements governing carbon trading and essential service provision such as water and electricity supply.
Bars and Courts
High Court of South Africa
University of Cape Town
University of Cape Town
University of Cape Town



  • Representation of Anglo Operations (Pty) Ltd regarding the legal requirements associated with the implementation of new technologies at its mines in Australia, Brazil, Botswana, Chile, Canada, South African, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
  • Representation of a confidential mining client in conducting a developing a sustainability report highlighting the various trends in environmental regulation including the effects of the Internet of Things, disclosure and reporting and changes to the social licence to operate and the manner in which these regulations impact on the client's business.
  • Representation of a confidential client in its potential share purchase of a company holding an exploration right over gas reserves off the western coast of South Africa.
  • Representation of a confidential client in developing a public participation framework that seeks to improve engagement and consultation with interested and affected parties and host communities and which is more closely aligned with international best practice.
  • Representation of a confidential mining client with comments and proposed amendments to the controversial draft Financial Provision Regulations under the National Environmental Management Act and potential legislative review proceedings.
  • Representation of Sappi Limited in preparing comments on the proposed changes to the South African Constitution regarding the proposed expropriation of land without compensation.
  • Developing a legal tailings dam risk matrix for a confidential mining client that seeks to identify legal risks associated with potential tailings dam failures in various jurisdictions in Africa, South America, North America and Australia.
  • Representation of a confidential client regarding the petroleum retail and site licences.
  • Representation of a confidential client on the Tanzanian Mine Closure Guidelines including the submission of comments and proposed legislative changes.


  • Representation of a confidential mining client in the sale of a bio-gas energy plant.
  • Representation of a confidential client in the sale of an historic waste rock dump, the transfer of permits including refining licences and the drafting of associated water and electricity supply agreements. 
  • Representation of CFAO in its purchase of Steinhoff's Unitrans Business which included various environmental matters associated with petrol stations associated with the business
  • Representation of Harmony Gold Mining Company in relation to the purchase of the AngloGold Ashanti's  remaining South African assets including the West Wits Mining operations (the Mponeng Mine), the Vaal River Assets and Mine Waste Solutions / Chemwes. 
  • Representation of Black Royalty Minerals (Pty) Ltd in their acquisition of the assets of Koornfontein Mines Proprietary Limited (currently, in business rescue).
  • Representation of the bondholder of Petra Diamond in respect of the South African environmental, mining and regulatory components of its proposed capital restructuring. 


  • Representation of a confidential tourist lodge owner in a development tribunal regarding the proposed development in the buffer areas to the Kruger National Park.
  • Representation of the Black Eagle Project, Roodekrans in judicial review proceedings against the granting of an environmental authorisation for a proposed housing development.
  • Representation of Harmony Gold Mining Company and Avgold Limited regarding the eviction of unlawful occupiers in terms of the Prevention of Illegal Evictions and Unlawful Occupation Act. 
  • Representation of the South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited to defend 43 appeals and two administrative review applications in respect of its environmental authorisation to construct and operation the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road and developing a Biodiversity Offset arrangement including the development of protected areas.
  • Representation of a confidential client that sought to challenge the constitutionality of the Carbon Tax Act in South Africa.

Project finance

  • Representation of various lenders, borrower and contractors during all phases of the South African Renewable Energy Independent Power Procedures Programme on the regulatory compliance requirements in terms of relevant statutes and the Equator Principles, conducting due diligence investigations and advising on risk mitigation and drafting the relevant portions of the finance documents and project documents.
  • Acting for Facility for Investment in Renewable Small Transactions (RF) (Pty) Ltd in their financing of Building Energy's Kruisvallei Hydro-electric power project.
  • Acting for Facility for Investment in Renewable Small Transactions (RF) (Pty) Ltd's funding of Matzonox Proprietary Limited's waste to power project which processes the nutrient rich waste water to extract nutrients and produce electricity.
Awards and Recognition

Matthew Burnell is highly proficient advising on compliance and environmental due diligence, as well as the development of environmental policy frameworks for clients.
Chambers Global, Environment, 2021

Sources describe him as "skilful, affable and easily contactable as well as pragmatic and open-minded." He is particularly active in the mining sector.
Chambers Global Environment, 2021

"responsive and dynamic in his approach,"
Chambers Global, Environment, 2020

"His work product suggests a very high degree of business acumen and client insight."
Chambers Global, Environment, 2020