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Frequently asked questions

What is the Stavely Ground Release?

The department has released 11 pre-defined minerals exploration areas (blocks) via a tender, within an area in western Victoria known geologically as the Stavely Arc.

A map of the Stavely Arc, including the minerals exploration areas (blocks) being released is available at earthresources.vic.gov.au/stavely

This ground is being released to attract new investment in exploration for minerals such as copper, gold and other metals to the local region.

The ground release excludes exploration for coal or gas. By law, minerals exploration and mining is not permitted in National or State Parks or wilderness areas.

Why is the Department releasing ground for minerals exploration?

The Victorian Government is committed to growing regional Victoria to create new prosperity, more opportunities and a better quality of life for regional communities.

Exploration for minerals can boost regional economies, whilst readily co-existing with agriculture and tourism.

Minerals exploration activities and any further development work must comply with strict legislative and regulatory requirements which ensure that these activities are conducted only where permitted, and in a manner that safeguards the environment, water, heritage and other sensitive features that are important to local communities.

Why is ground being released now?

Recent geoscience studies have shown that the Stavely Arc region has the potential for copper, gold and other metals discoveries.

To fully understand this potential and to identify areas suitable for minerals exploration, an area of around 20,000 square km within the Stavely Arc was held back from being available for over the counter applications for exploration licences to be made at any time (which is the usual practice in Victoria), whilst further geoscience and land use planning studies were done, and stakeholders in local communities engaged.

This work was recently completed and engagement with local communities is continuing.

What is being tendered through the Stavely Ground Release Tender?

A tender is being held for 11 minerals exploration areas (blocks) in an area in western Victoria known geologically as the Stavely Arc.

The tender closed on 15 August 2018.Successful tenderers will gain the exclusive right to apply to the department for a minerals exploration licence over one or more of these blocks.Licence applications will be assessed under the standard licensing process outlined in the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990.

Why a tender? Isn’t this a different process what normally happens for minerals exploration licences?

In Victoria, all land, except land that is explicitly excluded from minerals exploration (eg. such as National and State Parks and wilderness areas) is generally available for anyone to make an application to DEDJTR at any time for a minerals exploration licence.

The Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 outlines the requirements that the applicant must meet to be granted a licence.

The department is holding a competitive tender of the 11 minerals exploration areas (blocks) being released, to encourage the best minerals exploration programs and experienced explorers with good social values and a commitment to working with local communities and landholders.

Will exploration for gas or coal be allowed?

No. Exploration for coal or gas will not be allowed under any minerals exploration licences issued from the tender.

Where will minerals exploration be permitted?

Minerals exploration will be permitted on defined exploration licence areas within the Stavely Arc.

A minerals explorer must have a licence under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 in place before any exploration activities can occur.

A map of the Stavely Arc, including the minerals exploration areas (blocks) being released is available at  earthresources.vic.gov.au/stavely

Do explorers have the right to explore on my property? And do I have to allow an explorer onto my property?

Under legislation, in Victoria, a company holding a minerals exploration licence has the right to enter and explore for specified minerals on privately-owned land. However, it must have either the informed consent of the landholder or a written registered compensation agreement.

Legislation requires a minerals licence holder to consult with the landholder of any privately owned property within the license area that the explorer would like to conduct exploration activities on, prior to any exploration activities taking place.

If agreement on land access can’t be reached, the matter can be referred to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a determination regarding compensation (but not the right of access – which is bestowed upon licence holders under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990.

How many companies will be allowed to explore for minerals?

Only a company who is awarded a minerals exploration licence over a particular area will be permitted to explore for minerals within that area.

There are currently a number of minerals exploration licences within the southern half of the Stavely Arc.

Each licensee has exclusive rights over a specific geographic area and for a specified period (generally five years).

The department is running a tender process to allocate up to a further 11 minerals exploration licenses.

How much land in Victoria has mineral exploration licences over it?

The amount varies as new licence applications are approved and licences expire or are relinquished.Around 26 per cent of land in Victoria currently has minerals exploration licences in place over it.

Who will get an exploration licence? How are tenders being evaluated?

The Stavely Ground Release Tender aims to attract experienced explorers with sound exploration work programs and good social values who are committed to working closely with local communities and landholders throughout their exploration programs.

These factors are reflected in the tender evaluation criteria. The tender assessment is being conducted by an independent expert panel.

In lodging a tender, in addition to other factors, companies are being be judged on their proposed approach to engage landholders and the local community.

Their plans to engage at the beginning of the exploration process and throughout the duration of their licence will play a critical role in the selection of suitable candidates to be awarded a licence.

Are there any areas excluded from minerals exploration? What about towns?

Victorian legislation prohibits minerals exploration and mining in National Parks (e.g. the Grampians National Park), State Parks (e.g. Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park), and in wilderness areas. Overall, around 15 percent of ground within the southern part of the Stavely Arc is classified as being excluded from minerals exploration and mining.

Following engagement with regional leaders in the area, the Glenormiston Agricultural College and the Rural Industries Skill Training Agricultural College in Hamilton have been excluded from the minerals exploration blocks being tendered.

The department will work with communities, industry and landholders to set clear, upfront provisions to exclude mining from established population centres, whilst allowing low impact exploration to identify regional geological features.

Does exploration always lead to mining?

The likelihood of minerals exploration projects leading to mining is very low.

Evidence presented to the Victorian (parliamentary) Inquiry into Greenfields Minerals Exploration and Project Development (2012) indicated that at best, only one in three hundred exploration projects leads to an operating mine. At worst, only one operating mine is typically generated from one thousand exploration projects.

These low conversion rates from exploration to mining development reflects the need to discover a minerals deposit that is commercially viable.

This depends on many factors. Just like the agricultural produce grown in western Victoria, much also depends upon production costs, commodity prices, transport costs, international supply competition and demand, as well as exchange rates.

What process does an applicant need to go through to get a mine approved?

To build a mine and conduct mining activities, a company needs to apply for and be awarded a mining licence and gain all of the approvals that it requires under legislation.

Detailed, stringent approvals processes apply, including the requirement for detailed studies to assess potential environmental, social and economic impacts, outline how these will be managed, and extensive consultation with communities.

The approvals process can take several years. The Victorian (parliamentary) Inquiry into Greenfields Minerals Exploration and Project Development (2012) reported an average time between early stage minerals exploration and mining commencement of between 15 and 20 years.

What happens if mineral resources are found on private property?

If commercially viable mineral resources are found, the exploration licensee may then apply for a mining licence.

The granting of the mining licence confers mineral rights from the Crown to the licensee, but it does not give the licensee authority to carry out mining operations.

Mining can only begin when a number of other approvals, including planning permissions, work plan approval, rehabilitation bond lodgement and landholder agreements are in place.

These approvals are only granted following the completion and submission of a number of studies to assess environmental, social and economic impacts. 

Does minerals exploration pose a risk to groundwater or aquifers? Will it have any impacts?

Water is subject to well-established controls allowing for a variety of uses. Conditions for protection of groundwater may be imposed on an exploration or mining licence.

Does minerals exploration pose risks for the environment? If yes, how will these be managed?

Most minerals exploration activities have little or no impact on the ground.

These activities range from no impact activities such as analysing geoscience data and existing rock samples and surveying (eg. using light aircraft) to low impact activities, including soil and rock sampling, in-field surveying and in some cases, drilling.

How are environmental impacts from minerals exploration activities managed?

Most minerals exploration activities have no or low impacts on the ground.

The Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 outlines a range of criteria that, if met would mean that the planned exploration activities would be considered to have the potential for higher impacts.

In these cases, the law requires the explorer to have an approved work plan in place that identifies and addressed potential risks to the environment.

A rehabilitation bond must also be lodged as security of payment for any rehabilitation work that may be necessary as a result of minerals exploration or a mining operation. Other approvals may also be required under the Environment Protection Act 1970 and the Water Act 1989.

In addition, the Government’s Code of Practice for Mineral Exploration provides practical guidance to explorers about how exploration work should be conducted in Victoria to meet regulatory requirements and environmental standards.

What environmental issues are expected to be addressed by licensees?

For any exploration activities identified as not low impact, the exploration licensee must submit a workplan which outlines identified environmental impacts and proposed management and mitigation measures.

Environmental issues that could be covered in a work plan include:

  • Dust and noise emissions control
  • Drainage and discharge control, including stormwater management
  • Erosion control
  • Noxious weeds and pests control
  • Removal or restoration of native vegetation
  • Progressive and final rehabilitation
  • Groundwater protection

What protections are in place to manage Aboriginal cultural heritage?

In accordance with the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006, exploration and mining licensees must prepare a Cultural Heritage Management Plan for any areas of cultural heritage sensitivity.

This requirement must be satisfied before any work can occur.

In addition, the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 prohibits work within 100 metres of an area of Aboriginal cultural heritage sensitivity unless the requisite consent or authorisation has been provided.

Is the Victorian Government engaging with local communities on the Stavely Initiative and tender?

The Department is engaging closely with local communities across the Stavely Arc region to hear community views about minerals exploration and to help locals understand more about the region’s geology, minerals exploration, how it’s regulated, the Stavely tender and landholder rights.

Nine community information sessions have been held in towns across the Stavely Arc region to date, with further information sessions planned.

The department is also continuing to engage with a cross section of regional leaders and local agencies.

The department has listened to ideas about improving relationships between exploration companies and the community on land access and has gained insights into how new exploration investment might help boost local economies.

We are keen to hear the views of farmers and their supply chains, other landholders, community groups, individual businesses and residents.

Comprehensive engagement with landholders, community groups and interested individuals will continue over coming months. This includes community briefing sessions in towns across western Victoria, attendance at agricultural field days, and other face-to-face sessions as requested.

How do communities benefit?

Minerals exploration and development have the potential to bring jobs and other economic benefits to regional communities.

The exploration phase typically generates demand for the provision of local services, such as earth moving, equipment hire, accommodation, fuel and meals to support specialist exploration contractors.

If exploration is successful and a mining operation is approved, income and investment generated can be significant.

As an example, the development of a typical-sized copper mine could involve a $2–3 billion investment, generate 800 to 1,200 direct jobs and between $25 million and $35 million per year in royalties for Victoria over 20 or more years.

Does mining pose a risk to Victoria’s clean, green, agricultural reputation?

No, mining does not pose a risk to Victoria’s clean, green, agricultural reputation. The Government is committed to responsibly growing the minerals sector in a way that keeps Victoria clean and safe and meets community expectations.

Mining and agriculture are significant industries for regional Victoria and both co-exist to support jobs and generate export revenue.

Victoria is Australia’s largest producer and exporter of food and fibre products, and we enjoy a good reputation for quality, safety and reliability.

Victoria’s strong regulatory environment maintains this reputation while enabling mining to contribute to productivity and employment.