Prospecting permits give the permit holder the right to prospect for specified minerals. Allowed activities are very low-impact, such as literature searches, geological mapping, hand sampling, offshore sampling (by low-impact mechanical methods), or aerial surveys.
Generally onshore permits are no larger than 500 square kilometres, and offshore permits are have a maximum area of 5,000 square kilometres. Permits are normally granted for two years. An extension for up to half the permit area can be granted for two years and this can be extended up to a total of four years from the permit commencement date.
Permits are granted to the first acceptable work programme. They are normally exclusive (unless a non-exclusive permit is requested).
Minerals exploration permits give permit holder the exclusive right to explore for specified minerals in an area.
It is not necessary to have a prospecting permit before applying for an exploration permit. It is common for operators to ‘skip’ a prospecting permit and apply for an exploration permit where ‘higher impact’ work is planned. Permitted activities may include literature reviews, drilling, bulk sampling and mine feasibility studies.
Mineral exploration permit areas are a minimum of 150 hectares.
Permits may be allocated through an acceptable work programme offer, subsequent to a prospecting permit, as part of a competitive process for newly available acreage (NAA), or as part of a Minerals tender.
Ordinarily granted for five years, exploration permits may be extended up to 10 years from commencement, for either half of the area or 150 hectares, whichever is greater. Appraisal extensions are possible for up to four years, with a second four year extension possible.
Minerals mining permits grant the permit holder the exclusive right to mine for specified minerals. Permits are granted where the exact nature and extent of the mineable mineral resource or exploitable mineral deposit is known.
Permits may be allocated for an acceptable work programme offer, subsequent to an exploration permit or as part of a newly available acreage (NAA) allocation process.
The size of a Tier 1 permit will reflect the extent of the discovery and the proposed work programme. Tier 2 permits are ordinarily:
- no larger than 50 hectares for hobby/recreational operations, and
- no larger than 200 hectares for other purposes.
The size and duration of permits reflects the discovery.
Permits do not give the permit holder automatic rights to access the permit area. Generally for exploration and mining activities, permit holders must arrange land access with the landowner and occupier. For minimum impact activity, 10 days' notice is required (except over special classes of land, such as urban conservation land).