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
|Licence relinquishments (full and partial)||44||10,331|
|Percentage of state||33%||-|
|* 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|
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|
|Planning and Design Code Zone - Conservation||2||40||19||100|
|Vegetation heritage agreement||3||40||30||100|
|*Some applications may contain multiple area types|
Figure 5: Average EPEPR assessment times shown by quarter
Popup table version of Figure 5: Average EPEPR assessment times shown by quarter
Figure 6: Average assessment times for exploration licence applications shown by quarter
Popup table version of Figure 6: Average assessment times for exploration licence applications shown by quarter
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
Popup table version of 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
|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|
|*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*||Noncompliance||Outcome|
|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.