Access to Commonwealth land for mineral exploration and mining activities


The guidance information below is provided to assist applicants seeking access to Commonwealth land for mineral exploration and / or mining activities.

The information provided does not constitute legal advice, and persons intending to seek access to Commonwealth land for mineral exploration and / or mining activities should seek their own independent legal advice in relation to their application.

The Lands Acquisition Act 1989 (LAA) governs approval processes for access to Commonwealth land (defined as ‘relevant land’ in the LAA) for the purposes of exploration and mining.  ‘Relevant land’ means land in a State, or land in a Territory, that is vested in the Commonwealth or vested in a Commonwealth authority.

In particular, Section 124 of the LAA provides for mining on relevant land.  The Minister for Finance (Finance Minister) or Special Minister for State may authorise access to relevant land for mineral exploration, and the Governor-General may authorise mining for minerals on relevant land.

Mineral exploration and / or mining activities on relevant land are typically governed by a ‘deed of access’ between the Commonwealth and the miner.

How to make an application

All applications seeking access to relevant land for mineral exploration and/ or mining should be sent to

The Department of Finance (Finance) can provide an application package to prospective applicants on request.   The package includes guidance notes on the type and range of information required, and other technical documents that the Commonwealth requires to enable consideration of the application for access to explore and / or mine on relevant land.

The package is provided as a guide only, and applicants should provide all relevant  information to ensure that the decision maker can fully understand the nature and extent of the application including any proposed work, and the impact of the proposed work on the land and on the surrounding environment.

Information about the applicant

  • Full name and address.  If the applicant is a corporate entity, details about name, address, legal structure, and contact details.  Where there is, or may be, foreign involvement with a company seeking access to  relevant land, the applicant will be required to provide information about the nature and extent of the present or the proposed foreign ownership and / or control of the company.
  • Tangible evidence of financial capacity of applicant to undertake the proposed work.
  • A ‘certificate of currency’, outlining public liability insurance cover that nominates the Commonwealth as an interested party.   The policy period must cover the period of access sought.

Information about the project

  • Details about the minerals sought, the exploration / or mining techniques proposed and any associated operations and works.
  • Details about the economic viability of the proposed work.
  • Description of the land, including details about title(s) to the land and any registered and / or unregistered interests in the land.
  • Details about technical capacity of the applicant to undertake the proposed work. 
  • Contact details for the technical manager of the proposed work.
  • Particulars of the work program, including but not limited to rationale for selecting the area, the objectives of the proposed work, proposed site access arrangements and the exploration methods.
  • Details about the number and identity of the people who require access.
  • Details about the duration of access.
  • Details about the equipment and infrastructure to be used.

Information about State or Territory licences and approvals that may be required

  • Details about approvals sought and received (for example, exploration licence details).
  • Details about approvals or other consents that may be required (for example, OH&S arrangements).

Applicants should note that an authorisation to undertake mineral exploration on relevant land does not carry with it any implication that the Governor-General will subsequently authorise mining activities on the land, whether by the applicant or by any other person or entity.

There are no application fees, and all applications are dealt with in order of receipt.

Contacting State and Territory mining agencies

Information about current State and Territory requirements for exploration and mining activities on land located within that State or Territory should also be obtained.

How an application for mineral exploration is considered

The Commonwealth’s land use practice generally favours multiple uses of relevant land, including exploration and mining activities wherever this is compatible with the Commonwealth’s use of the relevant land.

Once an application seeking access to relevant land (to explore or to mine) has been received, Finance will consult relevant Commonwealth, State and Territory agencies about the application.

The Commonwealth agencies that are typically consulted include:

  • The Attorney-General’s Department: in relation to  native title issues;
  • Department of Defence: in relation to Defence use of the land;
  • Department of the  Environment  in relation to environmental and heritage issues;
  • Department of Industry : in relation to mining policy issues; and
  • The Commonwealth Treasury (as required).

Depending on the particular application that are received, Finance may consult other Commonwealth agencies, as well as the State or Territory agencies that are responsible for exploration and mining activities in the State or the Territory in which the land is located.

In light of advice provided by these agencies, Finance may also consult the applicant about:

  • Additional information that may be required;
  • Objections that may have been raised; and
  • Possible terms and conditions of access and/or land use that might be required.

It is not possible to give a precise time-frame for decision making, because each application is different and may raise unique issues for consideration.  Applicants are encouraged to keep in contact with Finance to monitor progress of their application.

How an application for mining on Commonwealth land is considered

Applications for approval to mine for minerals on relevant land are dealt with in a similar manner to applications to explore for minerals on relevant land.

However, once Finance has completed its assessment of an application, the application, together with Finance’s recommendations, is submitted to the Governor-General for decision.  The Governor-General then decides whether to authorise the grant of a lease or licence to the applicant to mine for minerals on the land.

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Contact for information on this page: Lands Acquisition and Disposal - Contact Officer

Last updated: 11 October 2016