Exploration is the process of searching for economic deposits of minerals, coal, oil or gas (petroleum). Information gathered during exploration is used to assess the location, size and quality of the deposit to determine if it can be economically recovered. Exploration is initially conducted over wide areas and becomes more focused where potential resources are identified. Exploration does not guarantee that mining will occur in a given area.

In most cases, the NSW Government or Crown owns the minerals and petroleum on the surface and under the surface in NSW. In some exceptions, minerals or petroleum are reserved to a landholder in an old property deed issued under an old titles system.

Companies or individuals wishing to explore in NSW must first obtain an exploration title under the Mining Act 1992. Exploration titles are granted by Mining Exploration and Geoscience within the department of Regional NSW.

The NSW Resources Regulator is responsible for the regulation of exploration activities undertaken pursuant to an exploration title.  This includes:

  • issuing exploration activity approvals
  • determining the amount of the security deposit that the title holder is required to provide
  • ensuring compliance with title conditions and exploration codes of practice
  • conducting probity and compliance checks on applicants for grant/renewal/transfer of exploration title applications
  • conducting site inspections and investigations.

Although exploration titles can cover vast areas, the actual on-ground activities usually affect much smaller areas.