Land tenure and availability

Native title

Australia's Indigenous peoples have common law rights to their traditional land and waters established by the Native Title Act in 1993.

Where it has been legally recognised, native title gives traditional owners the right to live and camp in an area, conduct ceremonies, hunt and fish, collect food, build shelters and visit places of cultural importance.

Native title can exist over pastoral land but not over NT freehold land or crown land used for public roads, railways or buildings.

Aboriginal people who hold, or have claimed, native title rights over land must be consulted about proposed activities on the land. You will have to negotiate an agreement for activities such as mining, geothermal or petroleum title applications.

Applying for mineral and petroleum titles

The Native Title Act will affect most applications for mineral and petroleum titles. The type of title you are applying for will determine which process you will have to follow.

There are three main processes used to address native title issues relating to mining and exploration applications in the NT:

  • expedited procedure: a 'future act' seen to have minimal impact on native title rights
  • right to negotiate: negotiation with registered native title holders or claimants in order to get consent for mining activities
  • Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA): negotiation with native title parties to reach a formal agreement laying out what you are allowed to do. The ILUA is registered with the National Native Title Tribunal.

With the exception of an application for an extractive mineral permit that do not attract native title, all applications are considered to be a future act under the Act. The application must follow the relevant process to address potential impacts on native title rights and interests.

An application for a mineral exploration licence will usually follow the expedited or ILUA process, and applications for mineral and extractive mineral leases will usually follow the right to negotiate or ILUA process.

All petroleum exploration permit applications are subject to the right to negotiate process.

Get the flowcharts for:

Applications are lodged with the department and must follow the Mineral Titles Act or Petroleum Titles Act as well as the Native Title Act.


You can get more information on applying for mineral titles on land affected by native title by contacting the Native Title and Aboriginal Land Rights Unit.

Useful resources

Generic tripartite deed template PDF (54.1 KB)
Generic tripartite deed template  DOCX (47.5 KB)

Guide notes to accompany generic tripartite deed PDF (819.1 KB)
Guide notes to accompany generic tripartite deed DOCX (55.1 KB)

Exploration and mining on native title affected land factsheet PDF (1.4 MB) 
Exploration and mining on native title affected land factsheet DOCX (883.3 KB)

Guide to the right to negotiate process DOCX (52.5 KB) 
Guide to the right to negotiate process  PDF (653.8 KB)

National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT)

Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA)

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Last updated: 04 February 2020

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