Fossicking rules and responsibilities

Main legal obligations

Recreational fossicking is a regulated activity in Victoria which means you need to buy a Miner's Right.

A Miner's Right is a permit that allows you fossick in Victoria.

You need to carry your Miner's Right with you at all times when you are fossicking, as an inspector or other authorised person may ask to see it.

If you break the conditions of your Miner's Right, we may give you an on-the-spot fine or take you to court.

Buy a Miner's Right
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Recreational fossickers and prospectors need to follow Victoria's land access rules. You need consent from the landowner, occupier, licence holder or land manager before accessing land.

  • Although verbal consent is sufficient, it is in your own interest to seek consent in writing. This is in case there are any disputes and you need to show that you have consent from the landholder.
  • When fossicking, the holder of a Miner’s Right must repair any damage caused to land as soon as possible and before leaving the search area.
  • The only time you do not need a Miner's Right is when you are part of an organised group prospecting under the authority of a valid Tourist Fossicking Authority.

You can use picks, shovels, hammers, sieves, shakers, electronic detectors and other similar tools. No machinery is permitted and no explosives can be used on the land.

Aboriginal places and objects are protected under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.

  • You must take care not to damage, vandalise or destroy Aboriginal cultural heritage.
  • If you find any Aboriginal places or objects (e.g. stone tools, middens, earthen mounds), you cannot  disturb or remove them from the site.
  • You need to report the items' location as accurately as possible to the Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria.
  • Visit the Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria website for descriptions of Aborignal cultural places and objects.

The Heritage Act 1995 protects places and objects of cultural heritage significance.

  • You'll find a list of places and objects (including archaeological sites) of State significance in the Victorian Heritage Register.
  • Known historical archaeological sites and relics are listed in the Victorian Heritage Inventory.
  • If you find make a new discovery of archaeological relics, you cannot disturb or remove them from the site. You need to report the items' location to Heritage Victoria as soon as possible.
  • Visit Heritage Victoria for further details about Victoria's historical archaeological record.
  • Go to GeoVic to find Victorian Heritage Register places and Heritage Inventory sites.

If you find any hidden valuables while fossicking, you must advise Victoria Police because such items belong to the Crown.

If you're under 18, you can fossick as long as you're with an adult who has a Miner's Right permit.

To minimise impacts from fossicking activities:

  • Drive vehicles on tracks or roads open to the public and park your vehicles on the roadside.
  • Do not bury rubbish. Take it home or put it in a bin if provided.
  • Minimise any damage to vegetation including the ground layer.
  • Immediately restore the area to how you found it, i.e. backfill any holes you dig and replace leaf litter.

Stay safe while fossicking by following these safety tips:

Before leaving home

  • Tell someone responsible where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Check for weather alerts including fire and flood warnings.
  • Wear appropriate clothing including sturdy shoes or boots.
  • Apply sun protection and wear a hat and sunglasses.
  • Wear gloves when digging and sieving to avoid wear and tear to the hands.
  • Wear rubber boots if working in water for long periods.
  • Wear proper eye protection (safety goggles/glasses) whenever breaking rocks.
  • Carry a well-stocked first-aid kit.

When fossicking

  • Be careful when digging around large boulders. They may roll or move suddenly causing severe injury.
  • Never burrow into or undermine a stream bank; or work under overhanging rocks or earth faces.
  • When visiting old mining areas beware of open shafts, and avoid getting too close, as the surrounding ground may be unstable. Never enter old underground mine shafts.
  • Be careful when fossicking on mine dumps, as much of the material is loose and may move without warning.
  • Never set a fire to clear grass or undergrowth.
  • Before leaving, remove rubbish; bury human waste; and make safe and refill any holes you dig.

Page last updated: 02 Jul 2020