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How to Access Brown Coal in the Latrobe Valley

The Victorian Government regulates and grants access to the state’s brown coal reserves.

Licenses and access are granted through a rigorous approval process.

Where Victoria's unallocated coal is located

More than 80 per cent of Victoria’s 430 billion tonnes of brown coal is located in the Gippsland Basin in south-east Victoria.

Within the Gippsland region, the Latrobe Valley has an abundance of brown coal occurring in thick seams close to the earth’s surface – an estimated measured resource of around 65 billion tonnes.

Approximately half of the Valley’s 65 billion tonnes of coal has been identified as ‘potentially economic’.

While the majority of coal in the Latrobe Valley is brown coal, an estimated 6.8 million tonnes of black coal is located in western Gippsland. These deposits are high volatile bituminous coal with medium ash and moisture contents.

You can use the GeoVic – Explore Victoria online tool to get more information about existing exploration or mining licenses.

Coal deposits outside of Gippsland

There are also several much smaller coal deposits located outside of the Latrobe Valley

The Murray Basin

An estimated 19.6 billion tonnes of in-situ brown coal may potentially be available in the Murray Basin in northern Victoria.

However, the majority of drilling to define Murray Basin coal was conducted in the 1970s and further definition is required to adequately assess the amount of coal available.

The Otway Basin

The Otway Basin has an estimated 15.5 billion tonnes of in-situ brown coal, most of which is in the Parwan sub-basin. This includes the Bacchus Marsh coalfield which has approximately 60 million tonnes.


The Anglesea coalfield contains approximately 390 million tonnes of the highest grade brown coal in Victoria.

Coalfields located at Wensleydale (near the Anglesea coalfield), at Benwerrin and Deans Marsh, together contain only a few million tonnes of in-situ coal.

Western Victoria

Opportunities for exploration for black coal also exist in Western Victoria, particularly in the Ovens Graben and in the Penola Trough.

Accessing Victoria’s brown coal

Companies can gain access to coal resources by applying for an exploration, retention or mining licence under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 (MRSDA).

Exploration licence

An exploration licence provides a company with the right to search for or appraise minerals (including brown coal resources) in a specified area for a certain period of time (up to five years and can be renewed once).

More information: Exploration Licence Application Kit and Exploration Licence Application Form.

Retention licence

A company can apply for a retention licence if exploration activities successfully identify minerals to an 'inferred' status (defined via the Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC) standards) and mining of the minerals is not yet feasible.

A retention licence allows the licensee to undertake more extensive exploration activities (once a range of consents are in place, including land owner consent) to fully define the extent and quantity of minerals within the licence area. A retention licence can be granted for up to 10 years and is renewable generally once.

More information: Retention Licence Application Kit

Mining licence

A company can apply for a mining licence once exploration or retention licence activities successfully identify a mineral resource to an ‘indicated’ status (via JORC standards), if mining has been determined as feasible and a range of consents and approvals are in place (including land owner consent).

More information: Mining Licence Application Kit

Licences are issued on a ‘first come first served’ basis, subject to meeting the legislative requirements.

Exploration, retention and mining licences must provide a workplan when undertaking any ground disturbing work.

Workplans are developed in consultation with the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR). Workplans include rehabilitation, occupational health and safety, environmental management and community engagement plans.

If a mining licence is granted, the licence holder will need a Victorian Government work authority to commence operations and mine the resource. The mining work authority brings together a range of consents and approvals including:

  • An approved workplan, including a rehabilitation plan.
  • A planning permit or complete the Environment Effects Statement process.
  • Land access consents or compensation agreements for private land, or restricted Crown land.
  • A rehabilitation bond.

DEDJTR and land owners/occupiers are provided with seven days notice of the intention to commence work.

Unallocated coal within the Latrobe Valley

Retention licence

The coal in the Latrobe Valley is an identified and well understood resource. For this reason, the government recognises that existing coal in a parcel of the Latrobe Valley (known as the exemption area) is already an 'inferred' JORC resource and is therefore suitable for allocation through a retention licence.

A retention licence provides potential developers with the opportunity to undertake substantial work to demonstrate the feasibility of the project, plan their project in detail and secure necessary approvals before a decision to mine is made.

A retention licence allows a licence holder to undertake pre-feasibility and other work required on an already identified resource to determine whether to progress to mining. Companies will need a mining licence in order to progress to mining.

Access to coal

The MRSDA provides for granting access to unallocated coal within this exempt area either by:

  • competitive tender, or
  • application (ie: if the project is deemed to be of 'state interest').

Applicants must meet the requirements for the relevant licence under the MRSDA.

The last brown coal tender was conducted in 2002, in accordance with the MRSDA. Since this time, a new licence category has been added – the 'retention licence'. This licence encourages licensees to progress work according to their workplans.

Accessing coal in other ways

The majority of Victoria’s known coal resources are covered by exploration or mining licences.

However, a number of companies have found opportunities to access such coal through the successful negotiation of commercial arrangements with current licence holders.

Current licence holders – including operating mines – are able to establish commercial arrangements without government involvement. The coal mines that currently supply Victoria’s electricity were privatised in the mid-1990s.

DEDJTR may be able to help establish these commercial arrangements by referring access requests to current licence holders, including operating mines.

Further information

DEDJTR can provide a comprehensive inventory of Victorian coal resources including quantity and quality data, and a freely-available 3D model of the Latrobe Valley's coalfields.

Mapped Victorian coal data and the GeoVic Explore Victoria Online tool are available. A Coal Inventory Report outlining all available coal data is also available.

Contact us

If you would like to know more about how to access Victoria's brown coal, please contact us.