On 10 August 2018, the (then) Department of Planning, Industry and Environment introduced five Mineral Allocation Areas across New South Wales, including near Dubbo, Forbes, Mundi (north of Broken Hill), North Cobar and South Cobar for Group 1 (metallic minerals). In accordance with the Mining Act 1992 (NSW), this meant explorers wishing to apply for Group 1 (metallic mineral) Exploration Licences over land within the Mineral Allocation Areas could only do so with the prior consent of the Minister from this date.
Consent of the Minister to apply for an Exploration Licence for Group 1 (metallic minerals) in the Mineral Allocation Areas has been previously obtained through an expression of interest process, open for short periods every one to two years. The expression of interest process has allowed explorers interested in obtaining an Exploration Licence for Group 1 (metallic minerals) in any of the five Mineral Allocation Areas to seek consent via application accompanied by details of an explorer’s proposed work program, experience in the region and details of innovative concepts and ideas to be applied to exploration in the area of the interest.
Outside of the expression of interest process, there was no formal means by which consent of the Minister to apply for an Exploration Licence for Group 1 (metallic minerals) within any of the five Mineral Allocation Areas could be obtained by explorers.
On Thursday, 9 December 2021, Paul Tole, the Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW and Minister for Regional Transport and Roads announced the removal of the five Mineral Allocation Areas for Group 1 (metallic minerals) to assist driving future investment in high-tech metals projects and new technologies. The announcement can be viewed here.
The Mineral Allocation Areas for Group 1 (metallic minerals) are expected to be officially removed by way of order of the Governor. This order is yet to be released.
Once the Mineral Allocation Areas are officially removed:
The Mineral Allocation Areas are expected to be officially removed by 31 January 2022.
What if I currently have Ministers consent to apply for an Exploration Licence in a Mineral Allocation Area for Group 1 (metallic minerals), and have not yet lodged an application?
If you are an explorer who has recently been granted Minister’s consent to apply for a Group 1 (metallic minerals) Exploration Licence in one of the five Mineral Allocation Areas following a recent successful expression of interest, it is crucial to lodge an application for tenure with evidence of Ministers consent before the expiry date of the consent which we anticipate to be 31 December 2021.
After this time, it will only be possible to apply for an Exploration Licence in your area of interest once the removal of the five Mineral Allocation Areas for Group 1 (metallic minerals) becomes effective. When this occurs, all land within the Mineral Allocation Areas not subject to an existing Exploration Licence for Group 1 (metallic minerals) become available for all interested parties to apply on a first-in-best-dressed basis.
I am interested in applying for tenure in a Mineral Allocation Area and do not have Ministers consent. What should I do?
If you are an explorer interested in applying for a Group 1 (metallic minerals) Exploration Licence in an area affected by one of the five Mineral Allocation Areas, we recommend:
In short, yes. The Mineral Allocation Areas in question applied to Group 1 (metallic minerals) only and to that end never prevented applicants from seeking Exploration Licences for other mineral groups over the areas in question.
Assuming there are no other impediments to the application and grant of Exploration Licences over the area of interest, lodgement of an Exploration Licence Application over eligible land within the Group 1 Mineral Allocation Areas is permissible.
Hetherington’s tenement managers based in offices around Australia have extensive experience in the regulatory framework governing the lodgement and grant of new Exploration Licences in New South Wales and beyond. If you have any questions about the removal of the Mineral Allocation Areas, Minister’s consent, lodging a new Exploration Licence Application, or just generally in relation to exploration and mining regulation in NSW, WA or any other Australian jurisdiction, give our friendly experts a call today.