Minerals exploration

Victoria has a long and continuous history of exploration for minerals dating back to the gold rush of the 1850s. Mineral deposits which may be found in the Stavely Arc include copper, gold, silver, tin, lead and other metals. These minerals are in demand as they are used in nearly all aspects of modern life in homes, businesses and across many industries.

Minerals exploration is the process of looking for mineral deposits in the ground and includes techniques that have no or low impacts on land, such as aerial surveying, ground mapping, rock sampling, water and soil testing, and focused drilling.

Technology, research and scientific methods are continually evolving, which means that some exploration activities can now be done without the need to enter private properties at all (for example, airborne surveys using light aircraft).

New mineral discoveries, if developed, bring local jobs, new investment and other economic benefits to regional communities.

Where is minerals exploration allowed?

All areas in Victoria are open to minerals exploration unless it is prohibited under legislation.

Exploration is not permitted in national parks, wilderness parks or state parks.

Minerals exploration is carefully regulated in Victoria to ensure minerals exploration is conducted in a manner which meets environmental and other standards.

Minerals explorers must have a licence

In Victoria, minerals explorers must have a licence before they can start any exploration activities. This would usually be a minerals exploration licence or retention licence.

These licences relate to a defined parcel of land, which may include privately owned and/or Crown (i.e. government owned) land. Licences are issued and managed by the Victorian Minister for Resources, through the department.

Exploration licences are generally issued for five years, with the option to renew the licence usually for a further five years.

A full minerals exploration program typically takes up to five years or longer, and in most cases will not find a sizable mineral deposit. If a significant deposit is found, a licence holder may apply for a mining licence, which is required to build a mine and extract mineral resources.

The process for being granted approval to build and operate a mine in Victoria is very rigorous and typically takes several years.

It involves detailed environmental, heritage, land planning, water and other approval processes and assessments, and detailed studies to assess potential environmental, social and economic impacts.

Extensive consultation with communities is required and members of the public have the right to lodge objections and make submissions.

To meet all the regulatory requirements and to attract required investment, it can take up to 10 to 15 years for a mine to become operational.

Less than one per cent of exploration projects typically progress to establishing a mine.

How minerals exploration is regulated

Minerals exploration in Victoria is carefully regulated to ensure that exploration activities only occur in areas in which they are allowed, and that these activities are conducted responsibly to safeguard environmental, water, heritage and other features that are important to local communities.

New licences or other authorities under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 cannot be granted over national parks, wilderness parks or State parks under the National Parks Act 1975 (e.g. Grampians National Park).

An explorer must have a minerals exploration licence over a particular area in place, consult with land holders and agree access to any privately-owned land that the explorer wishes to undertake exploration activities on, before any exploration work can start.

Exploration activities must meet all required legislation and regulations. This includes around 20 Acts which provide safeguards for national parks, the environment, Indigenous heritage, water, land, wildlife, Native Title, flora and fauna, biodiversity, biosecurity and water catchment.

Exploration companies are bound by the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990, with the Code of Practice for Mineral Exploration being available as a guide.

Minerals exploration licences are issued by the department to applicants that meet the criteria for award of a licence required by legislation.

A minerals exploration licence grants the licence holder exclusive rights to explore for minerals in a specified area for five years. Licence holders may apply for a renewal of the licence.

Read more detailed information about applying for an exploration licence and objecting to a licence application.

Requirements of minerals explorers for accessing privately-owned Land

Current legislation requires explorers to consult with landholders and have a land access agreement in place for any privately-owned land that the minerals explorer wishes to undertake exploration work on, before any work can start on that land.

Current legislation also sets out specific requirements of explorers for accessing private land including consultation, consent, compensation and dispute resolution.

Licensees are also subject to biosecurity obligations in other legislation. For example, licensees must take all reasonable measures to minimise the spread of weeds, pest animals and plant diseases and to prevent adverse impacts to livestock and crops whilst undertaking exploration activities.

Licence holders can only access private land and/or do any work on the private land with the informed consent of a landholder, or a written, registered compensation agreement.

Compensation may include a cash payment and/or other things of value to the landholder such as a new access road.

If an agreement cannot be reached, we have information on how to resolve a dispute.

Helping landholders and explorers with land access discussions

Discussing minerals exploration programs and potential arrangements for accessing land with an explorer is often an unfamiliar and challenging process for landholders.

This is why we have developed a land access tool to help you understand the exploration process and reach an agreement with an explorer.

Page last updated: 01 Dec 2021