Policy on renewal of exploration licences for minerals

IMPORTANT: This policy is currently under review given the amendments to the Mining Act 1992 which commenced on 1 March 2016. Reference should be made to current legislation (particularly Sections 114A and 27, and Schedule 1B of the Mining Act 1992).

Date of policy: This policy is effective 1 November 2004, (including split in to two policies one for each coal and mineral – coal policy reviewed 2013 – currently on web as at August 2014).

Note: This policy does not apply to exploration licences for coal or petroleum exploration licences.

The department has revised its policy in relation to renewal of exploration licences for non-coal minerals in order to assist exploration companies in their tenement management. There are no substantive changes to the previous policy.

Although exploration licences may be granted for periods of up to five years, they are usually granted for a period of three years.  They can be renewed for a further term (up to five years but usually three years), with the opportunity for subsequent renewals. Exploration licences are generally required to be reduced by 50% on each renewal (Section 114[6] of the Mining Act 1992). This is to ensure that exploration ground is 'turned over' and made available for other explorers to apply their own concepts, skills or technologies to such areas.

The department's Exploration Titles Committee (ETC) oversees the renewal process. This committee is chaired by the Director, Minerals Operations and comprises representatives from the Geological Survey, the Environmental Sustainability Unit and the Titles sub unit.

Renewal of exploration licences

For an exploration licence to be renewed the following criteria should be satisfied:

1. The expenditure and reporting conditions of the licence have been satisfactorily complied with.
2. The licence area has been explored effectively.
3. A satisfactory proposed program for the renewal period has been submitted.

Where these criteria are not fully satisfied, other extenuating factors may be taken into account in considering renewals including:

  • Circumstances beyond the control of the holder have delayed satisfactory exploration, e.g. Native Title procedural requirements.
  • A change in exploration concepts will result in a substantial increase in exploration activity.
  • Exploration has been delayed while the holder has justifiably focused work on an adjacent title.
  • An explorer has made a significant investment in the project area in the recent past and further exploration is imminent.
  • There is a need to hold ground adjacent to an existing mine or development project for longer term exploration objectives.

Licences will only be renewed on the basis of extenuating factors if the Department is satisfied that this is in the best interests of development of the State's mineral resources. Note that a proposed transfer of a licence to another party does not normally constitute an extenuating factor.

Special circumstances

Section 114(6) of the Mining Act 1992 provides that an exploration licence may be renewed for more than 50% of its area if "special circumstances" exist.

The criteria for establishing that special circumstances exist are:

1. The conditions of the licence have been satisfactorily complied with (as outlined above).
2. The full area of the licence has been explored effectively.
3. The proposed program satisfactorily covers the full area to be renewed.

If any of these criteria are not met, extenuating factors may be taken into account but only if the department is satisfied that this is in the best interests of development of the State's mineral resources. The quality of previous performance on the licence and the proposed program carry particular weight in determining extenuating factors for "special circumstance" renewals.

Special circumstances do not need to be demonstrated if the licence comprises four units or less.

It must be emphasised that exploration licences are for active mineral exploration. If a resource has been identified and no further significant exploration is envisaged, other forms of title are available.

New Applications

The department will not allow a licence holder to circumvent the renewal policy by applying for a new licence to cover a licence, or areas of a licence, where renewal is not justified. Any such application by the previous holder (or by substantially the same interests as the previous holder) will normally be refused.

When a renewal application has been refused the area is generally required to be available to other parties for a period of 3 months from the refusal date before the department will consider an application from the previous licence holder or related party.