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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Access to land

Best-practice exploration is built on a respectful working relationship between explorers and landowners.

Before accessing land for exploration operations, tenement holders must either:

  • enter into a written agreement or land access agreement with the landowner, or
  • give the landowner a Form 21A Notice of Entry on Land or Form 21B Notice of Advanced Exploration Operations. This notice may be served electronically, by registered post or by personally handing the notice to the landowner. Section 6 of the Mining Act defines 'landowner'.

Following service of a notice, the tenement holder must wait at least 42 days before entering the land.

In addition to the Notice of Entry requirements, the Mining Act provides that some land is 'exempt' from mining and exploration. An explorer or miner cannot conduct any activities on that land under their licence or lease unless the landowner agrees to waive the land exemption and reaches an agreement with the explorer about compensation and conditions of entry.

A waiver is a document stating the landowner agrees to specific activities occurring on their land. Before entering into a land access agreement the explorer must give notice to the person who has the benefit of the exemption, using the statutory form 23A Waiver of Exemption Request.

Form 23B can be used instead of a privately drawn-up agreement and provided to the landowner by the explorer. Both the landowner and the explorer must sign this form.

Further information on land access requirements is available in the department's regulatory guideline on land rights, access and engagement.

Forms 21A, 21B and 23 can be downloaded from the forms and templates page.

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Conducting exploration operations

The Mining Act defines exploring or exploration operations as any kind of operations carried out while prospecting, exploring for minerals, establishing the extent of a mineral deposit and the rehabilitation of environmental impacts associated with those operations. This includes exploration operations classed as 'low impact' and 'advanced'.

Part 10A of the Mining Act requires that, before beginning exploration: 'a person must not carry out authorised operations unless a program that complies with the requirements of this part is in force for those operations. For exploration conducted on an exploration licence, mineral claim and retention lease, this program will be a PEPR or generic PEPR (for low impact exploration operations) approved by the department.'

Low impact exploration operations

Mineral exploration programs typically begin with an initial 'low impact regional' exploration phase in which extensive areas are explored to identify unique small target areas that may contain anomalous mineralisation. Once delineated, these target areas will generally be the focus of more detailed and advanced exploration operations, such as involving the use of declared equipment.

Under Part 10A section 70B(8) of the Mining Act the Minister may adopt a program that applies to authorised operations of a prescribed class. For this purpose, and to acknowledge the low risk and impact nature of regional first-pass or low impact operations, all current and future exploration licences, mineral claims and retention leases conducting low impact exploration operations can use the generic PEPR for low impact mineral exploration in South South Australia:

Exploration operations that are not within the scope of the generic PEPR and/or are located within certain sensitive environments (for example conservation parks) require separate approval (that is submission of a 12 month or ongoing PEPR). Any such approval requirements will be identified in the generic PEPR or in the conditions of the exploration licence (EL).

For more information about the generic PEPR refer to the department's regulatory guideline on conducting mineral exploration:

Drilling and/or the use of declared equipment

For all exploration activities that involve drilling and/or the use of declared equipment (for example earthmoving equipment) a PEPR must be submitted to the department for assessment. The format of an exploration PEPR (EPEPR) and minimum information required is specified within the terms of reference for mineral exploration PEPRs:

For further advice on how to comply with the terms of reference and the relevant details to be supplied in an exploration PEPR refer to the department's regulatory guideline on conducting mineral exploration:

Exploration PEPRs may be submitted for approval for up to 12 months or for an ongoing period (for the term of the exploration licence(s)). Templates for both types of PEPRs have been developed and must be used when submitting an application.

EPEPR - 12 month approval period

Submission of a PEPR for a maximum period of 12 months is suited for tenement holders who have not worked in an area before and are more likely to conduct short-term or intermittent exploration programs - for example, testing regional drill targets identified through low impact exploration operations.

EPEPR - ongoing approval period

An EPEPR approved for the term of the tenement(s), that is 'ongoing', 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 operations 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., and
  • have adequate capabilities to meet agreed outcomes, including company management systems and qualified supervising staff.

Following approval of an ongoing exploration EPEPR, proponents are required to submit a program notification 21 days prior to the commencement of each new exploration program. Program notifications can be valid for up to a maximum of 12 months from the proposed start date.

Proponents are strongly advised to discuss the likelihood of obtaining approval for this type of exploration PEPR with the department prior to developing and submitting a PEPR.

Exploration consultation requirements

Explorers are required to maintain an up-to-date exploration engagement plan or equivalent documents, keep records demonstrating the results of consultation with appropriate stakeholders and demonstrate how feedback has contributed to decision-making during the exploration project. This includes:

  • the service of statutory forms and agreements obtained in accordance with the Mining Act and licence/lease conditions
  • attendance records
  • the type of engagement used
  • the exploration or community topic discussed
  • any issues or concerns raised by the persons consulted
  • steps (if any) taken or proposed to address those concerns.

Exploration PEPR (EPEPR) templates and submissions

The department has developed templates for use when submitting applications requesting approval for up to 12 months and for ongoing projects (including program notifications).

The submission of an Exploration PEPR must be undertaken using the online EPEPR submission form:

Exploration PEPR examples:

The department has provided the PEPR applications previously completed by the Geological Survey of South Australia for the Mineral Systems Drilling Program as examples for completing an EPEPR application.

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Environmental management and rehabilitation

Unlike mining, mineral exploration is a short-term or temporary activity and it is a requirement that impacts from exploration must be rehabilitated. Consequently, the primary goal in the environmental management of exploration operations must be 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:

Mineral discovery

Following the discovery of mineralisation or a potential mineral deposit, explorers may undertake more intensive exploration operations 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 (for example 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:

Other regulatory guidelines

Compliance reporting

A compliance report provides assurance to the community, industry, government and other stakeholders that regulatory obligations are being met.

An annual compliance report for authorised exploration operations, other than operations conducted in accordance with the generic low impact PEPR on an exploration licence, mineral claim and a retention lease, is required to be submitted.

To assist tenement holders prepare and submit compliance reports, the following have been developed:

Terms of reference for exploration compliance reports

The terms of reference outlines the format and minimum information required to be provided in an exploration compliance report.

Templates and guidelines for exploration compliance reports

An exploration compliance report template has been developed to assist tenement holders on how to prepare an exploration compliance report that meets the regulatory requirements of the Mining Act.

Further information on exploration compliance reporting is available in the department's  regulatory guideline for conducting mineral exploration in South Australia:

Incident reporting

An initial incident report must be provided to the Minister within 24 hours after the holder of the tenement becomes aware of the occurrence of a reportable incident.

A final comprehensive report must be provided to the Minister within 1 month after the holder of the tenement becomes aware of the occurrence of a reportable incident.

A list of reportable incidents is included in the initial incident report template and leading indicator report templates given below.

Incident reports and leading indicator reports must be provided in the manner and form and contain such information as set out in the relevant templates (see below).

Initial incident report template

The initial incident report must provide details of the incident and include relevant environmental outcomes/objectives, tenement conditions and measurement criteria.

Open the template and complete the report as a Word document

Leading indicator report template

Leading indicators are criteria used to give an early warning that a control strategy in a program under Part 10A of the Mining Act may fail or be failing.

Open the template and complete the report as a Word document

Comprehensive incident report template

Open the template and complete the report as a Word document

Submitting the reports

Incident report submissions must be made using the following submission form:

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Public liability insurance

Public liability insurance must be maintained by tenement holders to indemnify the holder against any action or damage arising out of exploration or mining operations.

Tenement holders must provide the Department for Energy and Mining (DEM) with a certificate evidencing public liability insurance is current and maintained in accordance with Regulation 81 of the Mining Regulations 2020. The certificate must be provided to DEM in accordance with the regulation before operations commence on the tenement, and annually thereafter.

Public liability insurance certificates will be recorded on the Mining Register.

Tenement holders must also notify DEM if the insurance lapses without being renewed, or if there is a change in the policy including a change in the amount of cover. Notification must be provided in accordance with Terms of Reference 032: Public liability insurance change or lapse notification.

If requested tenement holder must provide DEM with a copy of the insurance policy which relates to the requirements of Regulation 81.

For more information

For advice relating to on-ground exploration activities and for submission of Exploration PEPR applications and Exploration Compliance Reports (ECR) contact DEM.Exploration@sa.gov.au