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Exploration Work on an Exploration, Mining, Prospecting or Retention Licence

The grant of an exploration, prospecting or retention licence allows you to undertake exploration activities within the licence area subject to all necessary consents and approvals being obtained. However, a mining licence is granted with the expectation that mining will occur and should exploration be required, the Minister may, by notice in writing, authorise the holder of a mining licence to undertake “exploration only” for a specified period of up to 2 years.

Exploration, retention, prospecting and mining licences are regulated under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 (MRSDA). The MRSDA provides that some exploration activities are ‘Low Impact Exploration’. There are different requirements depending on whether you are conducting Low Impact Exploration or exploration that is not Low Impact Exploration (refer to the booklet Why Tenement Compliance Matters for definitions).

Public liability insurance

You must be insured under a policy of public liability insurance in respect of doing work under the licence, for an amount of at least $10 million. Working without public liability insurance will incur an infringement penalty. The insurance policy must not exclude any work activity that is authorised by the approved work plan or the licence.

Low impact exploration

Low impact exploration does not require an approved work plan. The Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 (MRSDA) provides for two levels of low impact exploration – reconnaissance exploration and all other low impact exploration.

You can start reconnaissance exploration immediately, provided it does not involve:

  1. the use of equipment (other than non-mechanical hand tools) to excavate on the land; or
  2. the use of explosives on the land; or
  3. removing or damaging of any tree or shrub on the land,

and you have the required public liability insurance and the appropriate consents, including for mining licensees, the Minister’s authorisation to undertake “exploration only”. Reconnaissance exploration does not require the lodgement of a rehabilitation bond or the giving of notice of your intention to commence work.

Note: Consent to undertake reconnaissance exploration on private land requires the licensee to obtain either written consent or informed verbal consent of the owners and occupiers of the affected land. (Refer section 43(1)(ea) of the MRSDA). Other consent requirements for reconnaissance exploration work, including consent to work on restricted Crown land, are set out in section 44 of the MRSDA.

All other low impact exploration is defined by Schedule 4A of the MRSDA and means exploration that does not involve any of the following –

  1. the use of explosives;
  2. the taking of flora listed under section 10 or Schedule 2 of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, unless that flora is taken from private land that is not owned by a public authority;
  3. the taking of flora from a community listed under section 10 or Schedule 2 of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, unless that community is found on private land that is not owned by a public authority;
  4. the taking of fauna listed under section 10 or Schedule 2 of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988;
  5. the taking of any taxon or community of flora or fauna from any habitat or parts of habitat under section 20 of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988;
  6. the removal or damaging of more than 1 hectare of native vegetation if that area does not contain any native trees during either the term of the licence or a period of 5 years from the grant of the licence, whichever ends first;
  7. the removal or damaging of more than 15 native trees that have a trunk diameter of less than 40 cm at a height of 1.3 metres above ground level during either the term of the licence or a period of 5 years from the grant of the licence, whichever ends first;
  8. the removal or damaging of more than 5 native trees that have a trunk diameter of 40 cm or more at a height of 1.3 metres above ground level during either the term of the licence or a period of 5 years from the grant of the licence, whichever ends first;
  9. the creation of any road, structure or hardstand area without the consent of the owner or occupier of the land on which it is created;
  10. the use of any closed road without the consent of the owner or occupier of the land on which the road is located or undertaking works on any road without the consent of the owner or occupier of the land on which the road is located;
  11. ground intrusive work that:
    1. is within 200 metres of a waterway; or
    2. is on a slope steeper than 1 vertical : 3 horizontal; or
    3. is of greater than 2 hectares in an area of cultural heritage sensitivity during either the term of the licence or a period of 5 years from the grant of the licence, whichever ends first; or
    4. involves taking water from an aquifer, hydraulic fracturing, or excavation using heavy earth moving equipment.

While you do not need an approved work plan to start other low impact exploration on an exploration, mining, prospecting or retention licence, other requirements and consents do apply, as set out in section 43 of the MRSDA. These include the lodgement of a rehabilitation bond, giving notice of your intention to commence work, obtaining either written consent of or reaching a compensation agreement with owners and occupiers of any private affected land and obtaining consent to work on any restricted Crown land. For mining licensees, the Minister’s authorisation to undertake “exploration only” is also required.

Exploration requiring a Work Plan

For exploration work which is not low impact exploration, an approved exploration work plan is required. Other requirements also apply. These include the lodgement of a rehabilitation bond, giving notice of your intention to commence work, obtaining either written consent of, or reaching a compensation agreement with, owners and occupiers of any private affected land and obtaining consent to work on any restricted Crown land. For mining licensees, the Minister’s authorisation to undertake “exploration only” is also required.

Schedule 14 of the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) (Mineral Industries) Regulations 2013 sets out exploration work plan requirements.

Rehabilitation bond

The department applies a standard rehabilitation bond of $10,000 to exploration work, other than reconnaissance exploration. You must lodge the rehabilitation bond of $10,000 with the department. This bond may be increased during the term of the licence depending upon the activity proposed to be undertaken.

Written consent or registered compensation agreement with landowners etc

  • Private land. If you intend to work on private land (including under the land to a depth of 100 m) you must obtain the written consent of the owners and occupiers; or make compensation agreements with them; or by agreement, purchase the land. Compensation disputes may be resolved by the Land Valuation Division of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal or referred to the Supreme Court. Compensation agreements should include such information as Parish, Crown Allotment numbers and Section (if applicable). You must lodge compensation agreements with the department for registration. Please note that land issued to the Victorian Plantations Corporation is considered as private land and their consent is required. In circumstances where the licensee is unable to determine the name and address of the owners and occupiers, the requirements of this section may be waived under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 section 43(2).
  • Restricted Crown land. If you propose to work on restricted Crown land (refer to your licence plan) you must obtain consent from the Crown land Minister. You should consult the local Parks Victoria office before applying for this consent. You do not need this consent on unrestricted Crown land, but you should consult the regional Crown land Manager.

Notice of intention to commence work

You must give 7 days’ notice to the Chief Inspector of your intention to commence any exploration work, other than reconnaissance exploration. Please use the provided form for giving notice to the Chief Inspector. This also provides a check list of the requirements for exploration work, other than reconnaissance exploration, on a mining, prospecting or retention licence.

You must also give 7 days’ notice to the owners and occupiers of private land on which you intend to work. If you intend to work on Crown land, you must give notice to the Crown land Manager at the appropriate regional Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning office.

If you propose to work on a public highway, road or street, you must give 21 days’ notice to the person or body having care or management of the public highway, road or street.