Mineral exploration has shown significant growth in 2021–22. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that June 2022 figures were 21% higher than for the same period in 2021, while there was a substantial 34% increase across the financial year.

DEM's core functions include:

  • assessing new exploration applications, which provide a right to explore
  • assessing exploration programs for environment protection and rehabilitation (EPEPRs), which provide a framework for efficiently and effectively managing exploration activities
  • regulation and compliance of exploration activity.

Table 4: Exploration licence statistics FY2021–22

TypeNumber Area (km2)
Applications received 158 108,398
Licences granted 183 100,854
Licence relinquishments (full and partial) 44 10,331
Licences current* 805 334,539
Percentage of state 33% -
Total licensees* 199 -
Applications current* 223 152,888
Total applicants* 86 -
* Figures as at 30 June 2022

Table 5: Exploration licence assessment times FY2021–22

Assessment type Number completed Target timeframe (days) Median timeframe (days) Percentage that achieved timeframe (%) Number within target
Exploration licence application 189 90 (3 months) 239 9 16
Exploration Release Area panel 2 60 (2 months) 48 100 2
Total 191     

The implementation of the amended Act and regulations in January 2021 has seen significant changes to the administration of mineral exploration across South Australia. The legislative changes reflect the most substantial changes to the regulatory framework in the past two decades and have necessitated significant internal process changes which have led to delays in the administration and processing of exploration licence transactions.

Table 6: Exploration PEPR (EPEPR) assessment times FY2021–22

Note: Timeframes are in business days; assessment timeframes are calculated based on the area with the longest target timeframe

Prescribed EPEPR by land type Number completed* Target timeframe (days) Average timeframe (days) Percentage that achieved timeframe (%)
Freehold/pastoral/perpetual lease area 46 25 28 85
Prescribed wells and/or water resource area 19 35 23 89
Protected area under the River Murray Act 2 35 22 100
Jointly proclaimed national park or conservation park 3 85 87 67
Regional reserve 2 50 40 100
Geological Monument 2 35 78 50
Planning and Design Code Zone - Conservation 2 40 19 100
Vegetation heritage agreement 3 40 30 100
Total 79    
*Some applications may contain multiple area types

Figure 5: Average EPEPR assessment times shown by quarter

Reporting excludes ELs that are currently pending due to complex land access issues dependent on legislated third party access.

Figure 6: Average assessment times for exploration licence applications shown by quarter

Target days with DEM is 90 days or less. Timeframes exclude ELs in Aboriginal lands.

DEM expects the downward trend in exploration licence application processing times observed in Figure 6 to continue into FY 2022–23.

Figure 7: Exploration licence, EPEPR and reporting assessments conducted FY2017–18 to FY2021–22

During 2021–22 DEM observed an increase in volume of exploration licence applications and EPEPRs. To address this increased volume of applications and to ensure a fit for purpose administrative framework DEM have focused on streamlining processes and implementing new systems that will improve regulatory and assessment efficiency over the coming period.

Table 7: Compliance-related activities for exploration operations FY2021–22

Compliance activityNumber
Site inspection 20
Reported incident 4
Registered complaint 0
Notice of non-compliance issued 7
Formal direction issued 0
Unauthorised mining/exploration investigations 2
Compliance report received 94
Compliance report assessed 57

Table 8: Exploration reports reviewed during FY2021–22

Exploration reporting Number reviewed
Exploration licence annual exploration reports 691
Exploration licence annual technical reports 310
Joint annual technical reports* 59
Surrenders of exploration licences 52
Partial surrenders of exploration licences 27
Total 1,080
*Reports cover multiple exploration licences 

Table 9: Application refusals, penalties and enforcement actions issued for exploration licences FY2021–22

Compliance instrument Tenement holder Tenement number*NoncomplianceOutcome
Application refusal Kingsbuff Minerals Pty Ltd ELA 2018/00098 / EL 5301 Unresolved compliance directions and poor compliance history Subsequent licence application refused
Application refusal Kaneko Pty Ltd EL 5894 Unresolved compliance directions and poor compliance history Renewal application refused
Application refusal Kaneko Pty Ltd  EL 5895 Unresolved compliance directions and poor compliance history Renewal application refused
Application refusal Goldus Pty Ltd EL 5896  Unresolved compliance directions and poor compliance history Renewal application refused

Open-file release of company exploration reports and associated data

It is a requirement of the Mining Act that exploration companies provide the exploration data generated on an exploration licence to DEM on surrender or partial surrender of the tenement. The data is made publicly available via the South Australian Resources Information Gateway (SARIG) to provide a central resource for the sector.

In 2021, 66 surrender datasets and 24 partial surrender datasets were collected, uploaded to the DEM database and publicly released via SARIG:

Sunset data release program

In accordance with the Mining Act and Mining Regulations, data and information generated through authorised exploration activity is required to be reported to DEM. This information is held by DEM for five years before it is publicly released. During FY2021–22 there were 142 sunset data releases comprising 86 exploration licences uploaded to DEM databases for public access.