In South Australia mineral exploration licence holders have a statutory requirement to identify relevant environmental, social and economic impacts and obtain relevant approvals prior to undertaking exploration activities.
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Best-practice exploration is built on a respectful working relationship between explorers and landowners.
It is important that landowners, including native title groups, understand the business of mineral exploration to be able to make informed decisions. This guide:
- provides landowners, land managers, native title and community groups with an overview of mineral exploration in South Australia
- outlines approvals required for land access and exploration, native title, Aboriginial heritage and protected areas.
To access land to undertake any form of exploration an explorer must first:
- Either effectively consult with the landowner and issue them with a form called a Notice of entry (Form 21) (PDF 515KB) and then wait 21 days before entering the land; or negotiate an agreement with landowners that includes the conditions of entry.
- Issue the landholder with a Notice of use of declared equipment (Form 22) (PDF 89KB) or negotiate an agreement if the explorer intends to use equipment such as earthmoving and drilling equipment.
- Give notice using a Waiver of exemption (Form 23) (PDF 159KB) or enter a written agreement to waive the exemption prior to entering land classed as 'exempt land' - including cropping land or land close to a residence.
Forms 21, 22 and 23 can also be downloaded as a word document - see the Forms and fees page on this website
Part 10A of the Mining Act 1971 requires the holder of an exploration licence (EL) to have an approved program for environment protection and rehabilitation (PEPR) in place prior to the commencement of any exploration activities.
Part 10A of the Mining Act supports the best practice regulatory approach adopted by the Department to regulate all mining operations (including exploration) within South Australia.
The regulatory approach is a performance-based risk assessment process applying to all proposed exploration and mining operations. The aim of this regulatory approach is to identify the key environmental risks that may result from any proposed mining operations, and to develop agreed and acceptable environmental outcomes that the tenement holder must be prepared to deliver. This approach focuses on what should be achieved (outcomes) not how it should be achieved.
Low impact exploration activities
Mineral exploration programs typically begin with an initial 'low impact' exploration phase in which extensive areas are explored to identify unique small 'target' areas. Activities can include geophysical surveys, mapping, soil sampling etc.
According to Part 10A, section 70B(8) of the Mining Act, the Minister may adopt a program that applies to mining operations of a prescribed class. For this purpose the Minister has determined that a generic PEPR for low impact mineral exploration in South Australia (PDF 787KB) shall be adopted for all current and future exploration licences. Explorers only need to download and conduct activities in accordance with the generic PEPR.
Exploration activities that are not within the scope of the generic PEPR and/or are located within certain sensitive environments (e.g. conservation parks) may require separate approval. Any such approval requirements will be identified under conditions of the exploration licence (EL). The licence conditions will inform the ultimate determinant if separate approval is required for low impact activities.
For more information about the generic PEPR refer to the Department's regulatory guideline MG8 Guidelines: program for environment protection and rehabilitation (PEPR) for low impact mineral exploration in South Australia (PDF 466KB).
Drilling and/or the use of declared equipment
For all exploration activities that involve drilling and/or the use of declared equipment (e.g. earthmoving equipment) a PEPR must be submitted to the Department for assessment. The format of an exploration PEPR and minimum information required is specified within Ministerial determination MD013 (PDF 234KB).
For further advice on how to comply with the determination and relevant details to be supplied in an exploration PEPR application refer to Minerals Regulatory Guideline MG22: Guidelines for conducting mineral exploration in South Australia (PDF 872KB)
PEPRs may be submitted for approval for up to 12 months or for ongoing projects up to the term of the exploration licence (includes subsequent licences). Templates for both types of PEPRs have been developed and must be used when submitting an application.
PEPR - 12 month approval period
Submission of a PEPR for a maximum period of 12 months is suited to explorers that have not worked in an area before and are more likely to conduct short-term or intermittent exploration programs. For example, explorers that are seeking approval to test regional drill targets identified through low impact exploration activities are less likely to require approval for greater than 12 months.
PEPR - ongoing approval period
The introduction of a PEPR that can be approved for an extended period of time is designed to increase exploration flexibility for the proponent. This type of application is suited for explorers that meet the following criteria:
- are committed to conducting long-term exploration projects or programs
- have a sound understanding of the environment (where proposed exploration activities are planned) based on previous exploration experience in the area
- have a sound compliance track record in South Australia for the past 5 years, taking into account noncompliance issues and timely submission of reports etc.
- have adequate capabilities to meet agreed outcomes, including company management systems and qualified supervising staff.
Proponents are required to submit a program notification prior to the commencement of each exploration program conducted in accordance with a PEPR approved for an ongoing period of time.
Program notifications can be valid for up to a maximum of 12 months from the proposed start date and must be submitted to the Department 21 days prior to commencement of the program. All activities outlined within the program notification must be consistent with, and conducted in accordance with, the approved ongoing PEPR. The Department will then assess the notification to determine if the application is within scope of the approved PEPR.
Proponents are strongly advised to discuss the likelihood of obtaining approval for this type of PEPR with the Department prior to developing and submitting a proposal.
The Department has developed templates for use when submitting applications requesting approval for up to 12 months and for ongoing projects (including program notifications).
- Download the PEPR template - 12 month approval period (DOCX)
- Download the PEPR template - Ongoing approval period (DOCX)
- Download the Template - Program notification (DOCX)
- Download Park access notification form (DOCX)
From 1 January 2020, the submission of an Exploration PEPR must be undertaken using the online EPEPR Submission Form
The Department has the provided the PEPR Applications completed by the Geological Survey of South Australia for the Mineral Systems Drilling Program as examples for completing a PEPR Application.
The primary goal in the environmental management of exploration activities is to prevent unnecessary environmental impacts and to rehabilitate impacts where disturbance cannot be avoided. The objective of rehabilitation is to restore the affected area to as near as possible to its original condition, such that the site is left in a stable state consistent with the prior land use. Whenever possible, progressive rehabilitation should be undertaken to return sites to a condition that facilitates natural regeneration of the environment.
For further information on environmental management and rehabilitation, refer to the following guidance material:
- M33 - Environmental objectives and guidelines for mineral exploration activities
- M21 - General specifications for construction and backfilling of mineral exploration drillholes
To ensure that activities are conducted in accordance with exploration licence conditions and the approved exploration PEPR, explorers are required to submit an exploration compliance report (ECR) to the Department annually.
The format of an ECR and minimum information required is specified within Ministerial Determination MD012 (PDF 225KB)
Following the discovery of mineralisation or a potential mineral deposit, explorers may undertake more intensive exploration activities and commence various economic and environmental studies to determine if they have a viable mineral resource. As early as possible after the discovery of mineralisation, the Department recommends future exploration programs are planned to ensure appropriate baseline environmental data (e.g. groundwater, ecology etc.), project definition and environmental impact information is being collected to support a future mining lease application.
Department for Energy and Mining guidelines are available to assist industry with the regulatory process and information requirements. These include:
- MG2a Preparation of a mining proposal and/or management plan for metallic and industrial minerals (excluding coal and uranium) in South Australia (PDF 5.9 MB)
- MG30: Development of environmental outcomes for quarrying and mining (PDF 1.1 MB)
For more information, contact: