Ownership of minerals is complex and varies from title to title:
- Under common law the Crown owns gold and silver.
- By past legislation the Crown owns oil (which includes mineral oil, natural gas and solid bitumen), helium, atomic substances and geothermal substances.
- Ownership of other minerals depends on the date of original land grant and the Act under which the land was granted.
- Owners of land granted prior to 1 July 1996 always own sand and stone.
Mineable minerals are divided into six categories under the Mineral Resources Development Act 1995. These are:
- Category 1: metallic minerals and atomic substances;
- Category 2: coal, peat, lignite, oil shale and coal seam gas;
- Category 3: rock, stone, gravel, sand and clay used in construction, bricks and ceramics;
- Category 4: petroleum products except oil shale; (please note that coal seam gas in not included under category 4)
- Category 5: industrial minerals, precious stones, semi-precious stones;
- Category 6: any geothermal substance.
Fees, rents and royalty payments may be made at the MRT offices in Rosy Park, through any Service Tasmania outlet, via cheque, or by direct debit. All cheques are to be made payable to Mineral Resources Tasmania. Direct Deposit payments may be made as follows:
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If making a Direct Deposit an email notification is to be made to firstname.lastname@example.org of the payment details clearly stating:
- The tenement/s the payment is for; or
- The invoice number/s; or
- A full description of the purpose for which the payment is made; and
- Name, address and contact details of the party supplying the funds should we need to verify payment details.
The Mineral Resources Development Act 1995 can be found here.
For further information call Tenement Administration on +61 3 61654728, or email your specific query to email@example.com.
Exploration and Mining
Exploration Licences may be issued for up to 5 years. A licence may cover up to 250 km2 (metallic, fuel, construction and industrial minerals), 500 km2 (geothermal), or larger areas for oil.
Mining means extracting minerals from the land for the purpose of producing them commercially, and includes processing and treating ore and the production of petroleum or geothermal products. A mining lease may be issued for any period the Minister determines and may be renewed. A production licence (for petroleum or geothermal) may be issued for up to 10 years, and can be extended upon application. The area of land contained in a lease is to be the minimum area required for mining operations. Individual leases may be consolidated into larger areas.
Prior to the granting of a tenement the applicant must satisfy the Minister for Mines that they:
- are a fit and proper person to hold the tenement;
- intend to comply with the Act;
- have an appropriate program of work;
- are likely to be able to finance the proposed work;
- have provided the performance and/or rehabilitation bond(s) recommended by the Director of Mines.
A person or agency intending to conduction exploration on a licence must first gain approval from Mineral Resources Tasmania. Any proposed work must be conducted according to strict environmental standards as set out in the Mineral Exploration Code of Practice.
On receipt of a work program Mineral Resources Tasmania checks the following:
- Land status;
- Threatened species;
- Wilderness Index;
- Geoconservation site register;
- Vegetation type;
- Ramsar Wetlands (protected by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially wildfowls habitat, as agreed at Ramsar, Iran in 1971);
- Nationally significant wetlands;
- Private Reserve under the Regional Forest Agreement;
- Forest community managed by prescription;
- Tasmanian Natural Gas Pipeline corridor;
- State Forest areas where the softwoods are privately owned;
- Phytophthora cinnamomi management area;
- Archaeologically interesting areas or sites, including mining heritage sites;
- Any other significant features which have been flagged at the application stage:
- populations of rare plants or animals;
- forestry plantations, grazing leases, forest licences;
- licences for any purpose (e.g. water use permits);
- The land manager (Forestry Tasmania/Parks and Wildlife Service) may provide additional advice on:
- threatened species;
- Aboriginal archaeological sites and any other archaeological sites;
- geoconservation matters; and
- any other relevant management issues.
Some activities on exploration licences, such as bulk sampling, are treated on a case-by-case basis and may require specific planning and environmental approval from the local government authority and Environmental Protection Authority.
Areas relinquished from exploration licences are advertised on the MRT website, and via a subscription mail-out system as Exploration Release Areas (ERAs). The ERA system is designed to encourage exploration programs which stand the best chance of discovering the new mineral deposits needed to sustain the Tasmanian mining industry.
Another way to find out about available ground is to interrogate MRT's Online Map Viewer.
Any person who has an estate or interest in any land within the area advertised as an application for an exploration licence may object to the granting of the application. Land owners within the application area and lessees are recognised as having an interest.
Objections must be in writing and must be forwarded, with the prescribed fee, to the Director of Mines within 28 days of the advertisement.
The Mineral Resources Development Act 1995 places an obligation on the Director of Mines to attempt to resolve disputes before they are formally heard by the Mining Tribunal. In practice this means that Mineral Resources Tasmania arranges for objectors, who may be land owners or other persons with a specific interest in the area under application, to meet with the applicant and discuss particular concerns. The outcome of these discussions is often an agreed set of conditions specific to the application area.
If the mediation process is unable to resolve the objection the matter is referred to the Mining Tribunal. The Mining Tribunal is constituted by a Magistrate appointed by the Chief Magistrate. Matters before the Tribunal are dealt with under the Rules of Court set by the Magistrates Court (Civil Divisions) Act 1992. Matters before the court are dealt with in a formal manner and parties may be represented by legal practitioners.
The Mining Tribunal is likely to follow precedence, in particular the landmark case Stowe v. Mineral Holdings, where it was accepted that the then Warden of Mines was restricted to establishing:
(1) whether or not an objector had standing; and
(2) whether or not the application was technically correct.
The outcome of that case was that it is up to the relevant Minister to determine whether or not it is appropriate to grant a licence if there are other matters that should be taken into consideration.
When can the holder of an exploration licence start work?
The major prerequisites for commencement of work on an exploration licence are that the licensee has:
- an approved work program;
- provided environmental impact information;
- supplied a security deposit;
- formally requested and received approval for on-ground work from the Department;
- formally notified land owners of intention to enter their land; and
- provided proof of a current public liability insurance policy.
The major prerequisites for commencement of work on a mining lease are that the lessee has:
- provided a security deposit;
- provided environmental impact information (major mining activities require an Environmental Management and Mining Plan);
- entered into a compensation agreement with the owner of the land;
- received planning approval and obtained the appropriate permit from the Environmental Protection Authority.
The holders of exploration licences and mining leases are required to rehabilitate any land disturbed by the carrying out of work on the tenement.
For a mining lease, the rehabilitation work is monitored by Inspectors of Mines who may advise lessees on techniques and procedures. Applicants are required to provide Environmental Impact Information which includes planned rehabilitation practices.
Exploration Licence activities are monitored by officers of Mineral Resources Tasmania who must be consulted prior to on-ground activities. A rehabilitation plan may be required where it is warranted.
Rehabilitation plans must take into account any special characteristics of the land, the surrounding environment, the need to stabilise the land and, in the case of mining on agricultural land, the desirability or otherwise of returning the land to a state that is as close as reasonably possible to its former state before the mining lease was granted.
Lessees and licensees are required to lodge a security deposit with the Department as a guarantee that the obligation to rehabilitate the land will be met. If it becomes apparent during the term of the tenement that the amount of the security deposit previously determined is insufficient, a further bond may be required.
Security deposits on mining leases are reviewed at change of scale of operations, change of ownership, renewal or five yearly, whichever comes first.
Security deposits on exploration licences are reviewed annually.
Rehabilitation works should be carried out progressively in conjunction with mining or exploration activities and must, as far as practicable, be completed prior to the expiry of the tenement.
The return of a security deposit is conditional on clearance from Departmental officers, who must be satisfied that rehabilitation has been carried out in accordance with the rehabilitation plan, lease or licence conditions and is likely to be successful.
The Minister may take action to rehabilitate land if the land has not been rehabilitated in accordance with the rehabilitation plan or if the Minister believes that further work is necessary. The Minister may only take action to rehabilitate the land if the tenement holder fails to do so after being given a reasonable period in which to undertake the work. The Minister may use the security deposit to fund the necessary works and may, if the security deposit is not sufficient to fund all the works required, take action to recover the necessary additional funds from the tenement holder.
Security deposits may be retained until such time that the Department is assured that rehabilitation has been successful.
The Registrar of Mines keeps a register of dealings regarding leases and licences in Tasmania. Documents forming part of the register may be made available to the public by the Registrar during normal business hours. Anyone, on payment of the prescribed fee, may obtain a copy of anything registered in the register.
Some types of information, including royalty payments, rental payments, mining and exploration records, are unavailable to the public under the Mineral Resources Development Act 1995 while tenements are still in force. The Right to Information Act 2009 does not apply to records, returns or information for the periods during which they are to be kept confidential under the Mineral Resources Development Act 1995.
Mineral Resources Tasmania advertises the application prior to the Director of Mines recommending that the Minister grant an exploration licence. The advertisement is placed in the newspaper circulating in the licence application area and generally corresponds with the major Telstra telephone zones (i.e. The Mercury for Southern Tasmania, The Examiner for Northern and North Eastern Tasmania and The Advocate for North Western and Western Tasmania). The public notice includes application details and a locality plan.
It does not automatically follow that, because your property falls within the area of application, entry on your land will be required. If the licence is granted and entry is required, this might only be for very brief sampling or surveying rather than the more intensive exploration activities. Before any activity may be undertaken on private land, the licensee is required to give at least fourteen days formal notice to the land owner or occupier. This period may be shortened with the approval of the land owner or occupier.
All on-ground exploration activities must be approved in advance by Mineral Resources Tasmania. Where the activity involves any ground disturbance MRT often arranges on-site discussions between the landowner, the explorer and a representative from MRT.
Exploration Licences which include private land are subject to security deposits which are usually held in the form of a Bank Guarantee. In the uncommon occurrence that an explorer may have damaged private property, MRT has immediate access to funds to rectify any damage.
In the case of a mining lease, the area of the lease must be physically marked out on the ground and a durable marking out notice must be placed on a corner post stating:
- The purpose of the lease;
- Any category or type of mineral to be covered by the lease;
- The area of the land;
- The position of the notice in relation to the land;
- The date of the marking out;
- The name and address of the applicant for the lease;
- The name and address of the person marking out the land.
In addition, the applicant is to notify the landowner within 7 days of marking out .
The Mineral Resources Development Act 1995 provides for payment of royalty to land owners where the land owner also owns the product being mined. Under the Act, the royalty payable to owners of private mineral rights is at the same rate that is payable to the Crown. The Mineral Resources Regulations 2016 prescribes the current royalty rates and the method by which 'ad valorem' and profit-based royalties for a number of products are calculated. The Act provides for collection of royalties by Mineral Resources Tasmania on behalf of the owners of some classes of minerals. The fee for this service is 5% of the royalty collected.
Compensation payable may be determined in respect of the following matters:
- the loss of the use, occupation, and possession of land subject to the mining lease;
- the actual and prospective damage to the surface of the land, or to any buildings or other property of the owner, caused by the mining operations;
- the severance of any part of the land from any other part;
- the loss or damage arising from the use of any right-of-way or easement; and
- all other damage consequent upon, or directly flowing from, any mining operation on the land.
Compensation is not payable for the value of any minerals in or upon the land.
Where the parties are unable to agree on the level of compensation the matter may be referred to the Mining Tribunal where an appropriate level of compensation will be determined.
The following activities may be undertaken under a prospecting licence:
- Mapping of any area of land to which the licence relates;
- Collection of rock or mineral samples by hand;
- Collection of water and soil samples by hand; and
- Taking geophysical measurements using hand-held instruments
Conditions relating to Prospecting Licences
- A prospecting licence enables the holder to prospect on some lands which are subject to the Mineral Resources Development Act 1995
- Prospecting on private property or existing mining leases, retention licences or exploration licences may only be conducted with the consent of the property owner or the holder of the mineral tenement.
- Prospecting on land which is subject to an application for an exploration licence or a mining lease may only be conducted with the consent of both the applicant and the Director of Mines.
- Prospecting is allowed on State Forest and Regional Reserves, and in some Conservation Areas.
- Prospecting is not allowed in National Parks, Nature Reserves, Nature Recreation Areas, Historic Sites, Forest Reserves and in public and municipal reserves (tips, cemeteries, etc.).
- Only hand prospecting for material is allowed and only hand-held tools may be used. The use of mechanical machinery or any explosives is prohibited. The use of sluices and trommels and motorised pumps is not permitted. The licence will be withdrawn from any person breaching this condition.
- The use of suction dredges is illegal in Tasmania.
- Prospectors are to conduct operations in a manner as not to cause or aggravate soil erosion.
- Excavation on any natural stream bank is not permitted. Banks must not be undermined.
- Prospecting in roadside gutters, or extraction from road embankments, is not permitted.
- All care is to be taken in the prospecting of materials and any diggings shall be restored to normal surface level before leaving the area.
- No vegetation is to be cut or removed.
- Discovery of mineral and fossil specimens not recognised as common should be referred to Mineral Resources Tasmania.
- No Aboriginal artefacts or site, or historic relics or site, are to be damaged or removed.
- No speleothems (stalactites, etc.) are to be removed from caves whether these are previously broken or not. Removal of speleothems is an offence and offenders can be prosecuted.
- Excavation in any sinkhole in a karst area or within 10 metres of the entrance of or within any cave is not permitted.
- Vehicles are not to be taken off formed tracks.
- No fires are to be lit.
The holder of a prospecting licence may not prospect on private land unless he has the consent of the owner or occupier of the land.
Prospecting licences are issued by Mineral Resources Tasmania in Hobart and are subject to a number of conditions which are printed on the back of the licence document. These conditions specifically forbid disturbance of trees and shrubs, cutting of tracks, damage to or removal of aboriginal or historic artefacts, and usage of mechanical equipment or explosives.
Essentially a prospecting licence authorises the user to prospect for minerals using hand tools only. The licence requires the holder to restore any ground disturbance before leaving the site. Limited samples may be taken from the site.
Currently prospecting licences are issued at both the MRT Rosny Park and Burnie offices.
Only hand prospecting for material is allowed and only hand-held tools may be used. The use of mechanical machinery or any explosives is prohibited. The use of sluices and trommels and motorised pumps is not permitted. The licence will be withdrawn from any person breaching this condition.