Types of mineral tenements

There are two main categories of mineral tenure in South Australia — exploration licences and production tenements. Exploration licences permit only exploration activities, with further information on this type of tenure in exploration .

Production tenements include mineral claims, mining leases, retention leases, miscellaneous purpose licences and private mines. Production tenements authorise the extraction, mining and processing of minerals, as well as activities ancillary to these operations, and in some instances exploration activity.

Mineral claims

A mineral claim is a type of mining tenement under the Mining Act. A mineral claim allows you to prospect or explore for minerals in the area of the claim for 12 months. It also gives you the right to apply for a mining lease or retention lease over the area.

A mineral claim is pegged by placing posts in the ground to identify the area of the claim. With prior approval from the Mining Registrar, you can identify the claim by using a plan prepared by a licensed surveyor.

Mining leases

A mining lease gives the tenement holder the right to carry out mining operations, subject to the provisions of the relevant legislation and the terms and conditions of the lease. It also gives the holder the right to recover minerals from the land and to sell, dispose of or use those minerals. The grant of a mining lease is the first stage in South Australia’s two stage mining approval process.

Before operations can occur on a mining lease, the tenement holder must also hold an approved program for environment protection and rehabilitation (PEPR). Holding an approved PEPR is the second stage in the mining approval process.

Historically, there were two classes of mining lease in South Australia, mineral leases for the right to mine for minerals, and extractive mineral leases for the right to mine for extractive minerals. With the regulatory changes which came into effect on 1 January 2021, all mining leases are classed only as mining leases, with the terms and conditions of those leases specifying which minerals can be produced.

Retention lease (RL)

A retention lease may be granted to an applicant for the following reasons:

  • For economic reasons or other reasons, the applicant is, in the opinion of the Minister, justified in not proceeding immediately to mine the land in pursuance of a mining lease; or
  • Sufficient investigation has not yet been carried out to enable the Minister to determine the terms and conditions upon which mining lease should be granted; or
  • Where the applicant is seeking an authorisation to carry out mining operations for the recovery of radioactive minerals and the Minister thinks it desirable to defer the granting of a mining lease endorsed with such an authorisation.

A retention lease is granted for a period of up to 5 years but can be renewed on application. Should renewal be sought, the holder must explain why an application for a mining lease has not been made during the 5-year term.

Miscellaneous purposes licence (MPL)

A miscellaneous purposes licence can be granted as an ancillary tenement to mining operations for the purpose of:

  • Carrying on any business that may conduce effective conduct of mining operations
  • For establishing an operating plant for the treatment of ore recovered during the course of mining operations
  • For drainage from a mine
  • For the disposal of overburden or any waste produced by mining operations
  • Any other purpose directly relating to the conduct of mining operations.

Miscellaneous purposes licences are generally used for infrastructure corridors, roads, waste rock dumps, tailings storage facilities or power access.

Private mine

When the Mining Act came into effect, there was a limited opportunity for certain people to retain the rights to minerals. Where successful, the Governor proclaimed the area to be a private mine, a type of mining tenure that is dealt with quite differently to other mining rights. There are approximately 3250 private mines.

Part 11B of the Mining Act specifically deals with private mines, highlighting the responsibilities of private mine proprietors. Only certain parts of the Act apply, however private mine proprietors are required to lodge mining returns and pay royalties. To discuss private mines further, contact the Mineral Tenements Team.

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