About mineral titles

Mineral titles for exploration

Each mineral title is for a different purpose, gives you different rights and comes with title-specific conditions, outlined below.

Read more about conditions on mineral titles.

Mineral exploration licence

You must have a mineral exploration licence (EL) if you want to explore for minerals in the Northern Territory. 

What it allows you to do 

An EL gives you the right to occupy the title area and the exclusive right to explore for minerals in the title area using any or all of the following methods:

  • digging pits, trenches and holes, and sinking bores and tunnels in the mineral title area
  • drilling to find out the quality, quantity or extent of other material in the title area 
  • extracting and removing samples of ore and other substances from the title area in amounts necessary to evaluate the potential for mining in the title area - large samples need ministerial approval.

An EL also gives you the right to apply for a mineral lease over all or part of the title area.

Area covered by an EL

The area for an exploration licence must be between four and 250 adjoining blocks, although you can apply for  a smaller area if circumstances justify it.  A block is approximately 3.22km2.

Application over expired EL area

If you want to apply for an area previously covered by an exploration licence, you must wait at least 30 days from when the previous licence expires, is surrendered or cancelled before you can apply for a new licence over the same area. This 30 day period is known as the EL moratorium period.

Licence term

An EL can be initially granted for up to six years and can be renewed more than once for periods of up to two years.

Reduction of licence area

You must surrender half the blocks in an exploration area every two years in the initial grant period. You can apply for an exemption to this rule or for it to be deferred or reduced.

Mineral exploration licence in retention

If you hold an exploration licence, you can apply for a mineral exploration licence in retention (ELR) if you find an ore body of economic potential within your licence area which is not commercially viable, or which requires more feasibility work.

What it allows you to do

The rights under an ELR are the same as for an exploration licence, detailed above. You may also do any studies or tests needed to assess whether mining the ore body is commercially viable.

You also have the exclusive right to apply for a mineral lease 

Area covered by an ELR

The area applied for under an ELR is calculated in hectares instead of blocks.  It can be for all or part of your existing exploration licence area.

If it covers the entire exploration licence area, the retention licence then replaces the original exploration licence.

If it only covers part of the original area, the EL remains in force for the remaining area.

Licence term

An ELR can be issued for up to five years and renewed more than once for periods up to five years.

Need to apply for a mineral lease

If the department considers mining in an ELR area is viable, then you must either apply for a mineral lease or explain in writing why you haven't done so.

If you don't apply, or the explanation is not accepted, the department can cancel the licence.

Extractive mineral exploration licence

You must apply for an extractive mineral exploration licence (EMEL) if you want to explore for extractive minerals - rock, sand, gravel, soil or peat.

What it allows you to do

An EMEL gives you the right to occupy the title area and explore for extractive minerals using reasonable exploration methods.

You also have the right to apply for either of the following mineral titles for all or part of the EMEL area:

  • an extractive mineral permit - to take extractive minerals from the natural surface of the land only
  • an extractive mineral lease  - to mine extractive minerals.

Area and term

You can apply for up to four adjoining blocks for up to two years.  An EMEL is not renewable and all rent must be paid in advance for the full licence term.

Mineral authority over reserved land

Mining and exploration can be excluded from land in the NT which has been declared an area of reserved land. Read more about land tenure and availability.

The declaration of a reserve may not completely prevent all mining or exploration activity, and a mineral authority (MA) can be granted over some general reserved land.

What it allows you to do

A mineral authority gives you the same rights as the corresponding mineral title - ie mineral exploration licence or extractive mineral permit. It is also subject to the same length of term and obligations as the mineral title.

You can apply to renew an MA with the term to be decided by the government.

Converting a mineral authority into a mineral lease, extractive mineral lease or extractive mineral permit

If you have been granted a mineral authority to explore reserved land, you can then apply for a mineral lease, extractive mineral lease or extractive mineral permit over the exploration area.

If one of these is granted the reserve land status over the new title area is automatically cancelled.

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Last updated: 13 October 2017