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Mineral Exploration in South Australia

Minerals are the property of the Crown in South Australia, and access to land for exploration is gained through provisions of the Mining Act 1971 and Regulations under the Act.

The regulation, administration and technical procedures relating to mineral exploration are dealt with by the Department of State Development's Minerals Resources Division.

All explorers wishing to carry out exploration activities in South Australia should be familiar with the rules and regulations under which they can apply for an exploration licence and undertake exploration and mining activities within South Australia.

On this page:


Exploration Release Area (ERA)

Amendments to the Mining Act (Section 29) have resulted in a change to the way that expired, surrendered or cancelled exploration licence (EL) areas may be released for application.

Upon the expiry, surrender, partial surrender or cancellation of an EL and completion of related statutory processes in accordance with the Mining Act 1971, areas may be identified for release to the open market. Areas identified for release will be released as Exploration Release Areas (ERAs) and published on a regular basis via the Government Gazette, in the Public Notices section on the Department of State Development's minerals website, and displayed on the South Australian Resources Information Geoserver (SARIG).

No applications for an ERA will be accepted within a moratorium period of approximately 1 month from the date of publishing. EL applications will only then be accepted during a period of five days (Monday to Friday) at the end of the moratorium period.

Following the closure of the application period:

  • If no EL applications are received the area will revert to vacant/open ground.
  • If one EL application is received, it will be processed via established EL application procedures.
  • If multiple EL applications are received during the 5 day period, then valid applications will proceed to be assessed by an assessment panel.

Applying for an ERA

Application must be made online via SARIG (preferred method) or via Form 29ERA (.pdf 384.7kb) or eForm 29ERA (.docx 636kb). These templates and online functionality have been developed to assist applicants in addressing the pre-defined assessment criteria as outlined in the Mineral Resources Division Regulatory Guideline MG17, and to facilitate efficient assessment and processing by the Department of State Development.

An ERA application must be submitted during the specified Application Week and be accompanied by the statutory EL application fee.

For further information on the ERA process and procedures refer to Regulatory Guideline MG17: Mineral exploration release areas (ERAs) - policies and procedures (.pdf 388.4kb).

ERA status

Information about the assessment status of an ERA can be found in M53 Mineral exploration release areas (ERAs) (.pdf 311.3kb) (Real-time updates) or by querying ERAs in SARIG.

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Requirements for exploration licence applications under section 29 of the Mining Act 1971

An exploration licence (EL) is the principal title issued for exploration in the state. An EL authorises
the licensee, subject to the Mining Act 1971, Mining Regulations 2011 and conditions of the licence, to explore for all minerals and/or opal other than extractive minerals (i.e. building construction materials).

Applicants for an exploration licence must:

  • have a registered office in Australia before submitting the application
  • submit the application including map of the area applying for
  • pay the application fee
  • nominate the principal mineral(s) the applicant is applying for
  • submit a proposed program of exploration with phased and costed expenditure
  • provide a statement of and evidence for the financial resources available
  • provide evidence of available and appropriately experienced technical personnel capable of carrying out the proposed exploration.

Applicants proposing to apply for an exploration licence in South Australia should read the more detailed information on applying for an exploration licence or download Requirements for exploration licence applications under section 29 of the Mining Act 1971 (.pdf)

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Understanding dryland farming and mineral exploration

These companion reports provide information for farm businesses and the mineral exploration industry in South Australia to assist with a mutual understanding of each other's needs and imperatives.

Understanding mineral explorationUnderstanding mineral exploration: information for farm businesses and the community in South Australia (15.8Mb) provides an overview  the business and cycle of mineral exploration in South Australia.


Understanding dryland farmingUnderstanding dryland farming: information for mineral explorers in South Australia (.pdf 9.5Mb)
gives an overview of the cycle of farming in the dryland regions of South Australia.

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Program for environment protection and rehabilitation (PEPR)

Amendments to the Mining Act that came into force on 1 July 2011 require the holder of an EL to have an approved program for environment protection and rehabilitation (PEPR) in place prior to the commencement of any exploration activities on an EL (Mining Act 1971 Part 10A, and Mining Regulation 114).

A PEPR should identify all relevant environmental, social and economic impact events that may result from the proposed exploration activities and how each of the identified impacts will be managed or avoided.

Low impact exploration and generic PEPR

The Department of State Development has developed a Minerals General Determination Generic program for environment protection and rehabilitation - low impact mineral exploration in South Australia (.pdf) which must be adhered to unless an alternative low impact exploration PEPR has been developed and approved by the Minister.

Minerals regulatory guideline MG8 Guidelines: program for environment protection and rehabilitation (PEPR) for low impact mineral exploration in South Australia (pdf) explains what a 'PEPR' is, how the generic PEPR was developed and relevant legislative requirements that need to be considered when conducting low impact activities.

Other exploration activities

For all other activities (not within the scope of the generic PEPR) a PEPR in accordance with Part 10A of the Act is required. Under Regulation 114 (Transitionary Provisions) an exploration work approval (EWA) for drilling/use of declared equipment, or a declaration of environmental factors (DEF) for exploration in sensitive areas (in accordance with EL conditions) will be deemed to be a PEPR until 1 July 2014 unless otherwise required by the Minister. Applications for approval of an EWA/DEF/PEPR should be submitted in line with existing guidelines and procedures.

It is intended that over the next 3 years a PEPR as required under the Act will eventually replace the current EWA and DEF formats. Guidelines and determinations for the development of this PEPR are currently being developed by DMITRE.

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Exploration compliance reports (ECR)

Exploration Rehabilitation Photo Reports, Annual Exploration Rehabilitation Status Reports and Exploration Environmental Management Reports previously requested as a condition of the Drilling/Use of Declared Equipment approval will now be called Exploration Compliance Reports (ECR). This change is designed to provide greater consistency with the Mining Act and regulations.

The timing of a submission for an ECR has also been amended to provide consistency with existing EL reporting requirements (i.e. Annual Technical Reports and agreed joint reporting arrangements).

A Determination for the submission of a Exploration Compliance Report is currently under development and will come into force as of 1 July 2012. The Determination will provide greater clarity regarding:

  • the type of exploration activities that trigger the requirement for an Exploration Compliance Report;
  • when an Exploration Compliance Report must be submitted (e.g. in accordance with existing EL reporting requirements); and
  • the content of an Exploration Compliance Report.

Until 1 July 2012, Exploration Compliance Reports will continue to be requested as a condition of the PEPR approval (previously known as the Drilling/Use of Declared Equipment approval).

A template for the submission of a Compliance Report is also under development.

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Exploration reporting and templates

Exploration reporting guidelines and templates to assist Exploration Licence holders in the preparation and submission of statutory reports and notifications for Mineral Exploration Licences in South Australia.

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Submission of the appropriate forms required under the Mining Act 1971 is vital when holding an EL and proposing, conducting and finishing an exploration program.

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More information

Information sheets: includes information on exploration licence applications and procedures

Minerals regulatory guidelines: guidelines for complying with the requirements of the Mining Act and regulations

SARIG (South Australian Resources Information Geoserver): free online access to current tenement information, EL application lodgement service, geoscientific data, open file company reports, publications and reference materials

Resource Information Centre: customised hardcopy maps, plans of tenement, geology, geophysical data, geoscientific datasets and GIS packages

Consultants and Tenement Managers: companies that can assist with management of mining tenements, preparation of reports and advice on environmental and land access issues