Vanessa Weyer (PhD Environmental Management) – Principal Scientist

Vanessa is a passionate environmental research and consulting scientist, who sees it as her moral obligation to use her talents wisely to care for the earth and its people.

Vanessa has a PhD in Environment Management (University of Pretoria), an MSc degree in Environment and Development (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and an undergraduate qualification in Horticulture and Landscape Design. She is a certified Professional Natural Scientist and an Environmental Assessment Practitioner. Vanessa leads the Environmental Sustainability, Governance and Policy Theme at the INR and has over 20 years’ experience in environmental research and consulting, with the following areas of specialisation:

Sustainable Minerals Research, Mine Closure, Mine and Degraded Land Rehabilitation – Vanessa’s PhD, completed in 2020, investigated the development of an integrated rehabilitation risk assessment model for use in South Africa and Australia, for surface-strip coal mine rehabilitation risk assessment. The PhD was initiated at the Sustainable Minerals Institute, Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia and then transferred to the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Collaborative co-supervision and journal article co-authorship links were established with the University of Queensland, University of Southern Queensland, University of Nottingham-Malaysia, University of Pretoria and the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON). The project was funded by the Coaltech Research Association and the University of Pretoria. The project focused on quantitative integrated environmental risk assessment, with linkages into the environmental impact assessment, risk assessment (ISO 31000) and mine closure processes and policy. The integration of multi-disciplines and the application of Artificial Intelligence, i.e. Bayesian network modelling were fundamental to the project.

Figure 1. An example of a Bayesian network (BN), showing the contribution from baseline soils to the risk of soil compaction occurring. Site data are entered into the BN model as observations and are indicated with red bars. The end result is shown as a risk % in the final node.

Vanessa has further prepared mine rehabilitation and closure plans and has assisted with mine cover research projects.

Sustainable Environmental Research, Land Transformation and Catchment Management – Vanessa’s MSc involved GIS mapping, and the investigation of land transformation in the Karkloof catchment between 1944 and 1999. The study found substantial loss of Midlands Grassland to commercial forestry and cultivation. The project focused on catchment management issues as well as land transformation and its implications for biodiversity and sustainability.

Figure 2. Land categories in the Karkloof catchment in 1944
Figure 3. Land categories in the Karkloof catchment in 1999

Environmental Impact Assessment – Vanessa has worked on environmental impact assessments since the first environmental impact assessment regulations were promulgated in 1997 in South Africa. She has conducted Environmental Screenings, Basic Assessments, Scoping and Environmental Impact Assessments, Environmental Management Programmes, Monitoring, and 24G Applications for a range of projects including for industrial, infrastructure, recycling, alternative fuels, petrol filling stations, underground storage tanks, housing, office parks and hotels.

Environmental Planning – Vanessa was involved with some of KwaZulu-Natal’s pioneer strategic and framework plans including for the North and Outer West Local Councils, Dolphin Coast, Ugu and Ilembe District Municipalities, KwaZulu-Natal estuaries and the Dukuduku forest.


Weyer, V.D., (2020), Surface-strip coal mine rehabilitation risk assessment: The development of an integrated rehabilitation risk assessment model for use in South Africa and Australia, PhD, Centre for Environmental Studies, University of Pretoria.

Weyer, V.D., Bennett, J. McL., Dale, G., de Waal, A., Roberton, S.D., Truter, W. F., (in press). Surface-strip coal mine land rehabilitation planning: Selecting among four techniques for risk assessment model development. Resources Policy.

Weyer, V.D., de Waal, A., Lechner, A.M., Unger, C.J., O’Connor, T.G., Baumgartl, T., Schulze, R, Truter, W. F., 2019. Quantifying rehabilitation risks for surface-strip coal mines using a soil compaction Bayesian network case study in South Africa and Australia to demonstrate the integrated R2AIN framework. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management. https://doi.org/10.1002/ieam.4128

Weyer, V.D., Truter, W.F., Lechner, A.M., Unger, C.J., 2017. Surface-strip coal mine land rehabilitation planning in South Africa and Australia: Maturity and opportunities for improvement. Resources Policy 54, 117-129. Share Link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301420717301757

Weyer, V.D., Granger, J.E., Hill, T.R. & O’Connor, T.G., 2015. Land transformation and its implication for biodiversity integrity and hydrological functioning from 1944 to 1999, Karkloof catchment, South Africa, Bothalia 45(1), Art. #1907, 13 pages. http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/abc.v45i1.1907

Weyer, V.D., 2000, Land transformation in the Karkloof catchment between 1944 and 1999: Towards a database for future planning, MSc dissertation, Centre for Environment and Development, University of Natal.