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Exploration is the process of searching for economic deposits of minerals, coal, oil or petroleum gas.

The 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 and under the surface in NSW. In some cases, minerals or petroleum are reserved to the landholder in an old property deed issued under an old titles system.

 Overview of Exploration in NSW provides further details regarding the exploration framework in NSW. 

Exploration title conditions

In NSW, an authorisation under the Mining Act 1992 must be granted by the Minister for the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) before anyone can undertake exploration activities. Authorisations are commonly referred to as ‘titles’ and include the following:

Exploration licences – an EL gives the title holder exclusive rights to explore for a specific mineral group/s within a designated area. An EL does not permit mining.

Assessment leases – an AL gives the title holder exclusive rights to continue to explore for a specific mineral group/s within a designated area. It enables a title holder to continue ownership of a title over an area during the period between exploration and mining. An AL is typically held over land to facilitate a detailed assessment of the economic viability of a future mining project. An AL does not permit mining.

Titles are granted by NSW Resources within DPIRD.

Conditions are imposed on titles to ensure:

  • potential impacts on the environment are minimised
  • disturbed land is progressively rehabilitated as exploration progresses
  • a security bond is lodged to cover the government’s full costs in undertaking rehabilitation in the event of default by the title holder
  • title holders provide annual reports on the progress of rehabilitation.

The NSW Resources Regulator is responsible for regulating compliance with title conditions.

The standard conditions of titles can be downloaded from the NSW Resources' website at standard conditions.

What we do

We are 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.