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Ernst is an ESG and Natural Resources Law specialist based in Johannesburg.

Ernst is a "Natural Scientist turned Regulatory Lawyer".

Owing to his background in Environmental Sciences, his practice tends to focus on the laws that govern the exploitation of natural resources. In light of this, he also frequently advises clients on matters related to sustainable development and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. He is also well versed in mineral and petroleum, labour, administrative and constitutional, indigenous and customary law, international as well as general commercial law. 

In addition to advising clients on the law and law reform processes, he also represents them in negotiations, transactional work, judicial review proceedings, international arbitrations, and high court litigation. The different categories of work normally concern issues which form part of one or more of the different ESG pillars.

Ernst's clients include governments, local communities, non-profit organisations, and multinational organisations. The latter include entities that are listed on the Johannesburg, London, New York, Singapore and Indian Stock Exchanges and which have operations in various Sub-Saharan African jurisdictions. 

Ernst is the lead associate in most of the Johannesburg-based corporate team's ESG and mining related matters. Many of the matters include strategically important instructions such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia mineral law reform project and the Green Hydrogen Organisation's Green Hydrogen Contracting and Green Hydrogen Standard initiatives.

Ernst is recognised as a Key Lawyer by Legal500 (Global Green Guide: EMEA, 2022; Mining (South Africa), 2022) and Thought Leader by Mondaq (Environmental Law; Spring 2022). He is also a regular participant at international conferences (most recently the Future Minerals Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) and has lectured the LLM (Masters) in Extractive Industries Law in Africa students at the University of Pretoria.

Ernst frequently publishes on ESG related topics and is also the key driving force behind the HSF's monthly Africa focussed ESG tracker. (Most of the articles and the trackers are available here or here).  
In addition to his client related work, Ernst is also the African continent's representative on:
  • The International Bar Association's United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Environmental Social Governance Working Group 
  • The Net Zero Lawyers Alliances' Steering Committee.


Ernst is an admitted attorney in South Africa. He holds a LL.B from the University of Cape Town (2013), an Advance Certificate in Administrative Law from the University of the Witwatersrand (2019), a B.Sc Environmental Science (2009), and B.Sc (HONS) Environmental Analysis and Management (2010) from the University of Pretoria.  He is currently enrolled for a Master of Laws (LL.M) by dissertation with the University of the Witwatersrand focusing on the intersection between Global Administrative Law and International Human Rights Law.

Experience & expertise

Selected matters

  • A multinational mining company on a potential approach which it could follow to develop, implement, establish and maintain an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) framework across its different businesses and operations 
  • Numerous multinationals on various aspects of the ESG Regulatory Regime
  • Several Multinational Corporations on sections of their ESG Reports
  • ESG masterclasses and bespoke training session on ESG issues to various multinational companies including in Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United States, and the United Kingdom.