Minerals exploration is carefully regulated in Victoria. More than 20 laws apply to exploration and mining to protect the environment, Indigenous heritage, water, land, Native Title, plants and animals, biodiversity and water catchments.
Minerals exploration and mining are not allowed in national and state parks or wilderness areas. All other types of land in Victoria, private or commercial, are open to exploration, retention, prospecting and mining licence applications.
Mineral resources belong to the state of Victoria (the Crown) whether they are on private, commercial or government land. Ownership of the minerals changes hands if or when we grant a mining licence to a mining company.
Both minerals explorers and mining companies are required by law to contact relevant landholders to discuss the impact of possible minerals exploration or mining.
If the applicant asks you to sign a contract giving them access to your property, you should seek legal advice before you enter into any binding agreement. No work can start on your land without your consent.
The application process to build and operate a mine in Victoria is thorough and generally takes several years. It involves detailed assessments and studies to consider potential environmental, social, cultural and economic impacts.
In-depth consultation with communities is needed and members of the public have the right to lodge objections and make submissions.
It can take as many as 10 to 15 years for a mine to become operational once it has met regulatory needs and secured investors.
Less than one per cent of exploration projects typically progress to building a mine.
In Victoria, minerals explorers need a licence before they can start any exploration. This would usually be a minerals exploration licence or retention licence. A retention licence lets the licensee (licence holder) conduct more exploration to find out if a mineral resource could lead to mining for profit.
These licences relate to a defined piece of land, which may include privately owned and/or Crown (i.e. government owned) land.
Licences are issued and managed by the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.
At a minimum, new licence applications need to be advertised in a newspaper issued in the locality of the proposed exploration licence.
They also need to be advertised in the Wednesday edition of a newspaper issued generally throughout Victoria. Prospecting or fossicking licence applications only need to be advertised in the local paper. Notice may also be given online, via letterbox drops or at community events.
The applicant needs to give the public notice/s within 14 days of their application receiving highest ranking. Public notice/s gives landholders the chance to raise concerns or lodge objections before the government decides on the application.
Note: if your property falls within the area of an application, it does not mean that the minerals explorer will need entry to your land.
A full minerals exploration program generally takes at least five years; and in most cases doesn't find a sizeable mineral deposit.
If a significant deposit is found, a licence holder may apply for a mining licence, which is required to build a mine and remove mineral resources.
If mineral resources are found on your property, the exploration licensee (licence holder) may then apply for a mining licence.
A mining licence applicant needs to give the public notice/s within 14 days of their application receiving highest ranking. The applicant must give notice to all relevant landholders within the area of the application.
Public notice/s gives landholders the chance to raise concerns or lodge objections before the government decides on the application.
Mining licences of less than five hectares only need to advertise in the local newspaper.
Ownership of the minerals changes hands if or when we grant a mining licence to a mining company but it does not give the licensee (licence holder) authority to carry out mining operations.
Mining can only begin when approvals including planning, work plan, rehabilitation bond lodgement, Native Title, Indigenous heritage, and landholder agreements are in place.
If the applicant asks you to sign a contract giving them access to your property we recommend you seek legal advice before you enter into any binding agreement. No work can start on your land without your permission.
The applicant will need to prepare a document called a work plan and consult with you and other members of the community during this process.
You can raise matters including how you will continue to manage your land or how the activities may affect your quality of life. The work plan may include these concerns and limit or prevent certain activities.
Objections and comments are considered before a decision is made whether to approve the work plan and grant the licence.
Exploration licence holders don't need a community engagement plan unless a work plan is required. However, they still have a duty to consult.
Under a mining licence, the licence holder needs to prepare a community engagement plan as part of the work plan.
A community engagement plan needs to clearly identify the community; and outline all aspects of engagement at each stage of the mining project.
The minimum requirements for the community engagement plan are in Schedule 13 of the Mineral Resources Development Regulations 2002. They depend on the geographical size of the licence and what activities the licence holder is undertaking.
For further information, please view the Community Engagement Guidelines for Mining and Mineral Exploration.
A landholder may object to a minerals exploration or mining licence application before it's approved.
You need to object in writing within 21 days of the public notice/s being issued. Objections are at the discretion of the community member. They may cover perceived loss of amenity or services; social and cultural aspects;and environmental impacts.
We consider all objections and comments before deciding whether or not to grant a licence.
Objections may put extra conditions on the licence holder. These could be technical requirements or issues the community is concerned about.
If the applicant asks you to sign a contract giving them access to your property, you should seek legal advice before you enter into any binding agreement. No work can start on your land without your permission.
If a consent or compensation agreement cannot be reached, the Victorian Mining Warden may be asked to mediate the dispute.
Alternatively, the dispute may be taken to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) or referred to the Supreme Court of Victoria.
The Victorian Division of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA Victoria) and the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) have compiled the Introduction to the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990. It aims to simply answer common questions about the MRSDA and may be useful for a quick reference. The 2017 update is the third version of the guide, which was first published in 2000 and updated in 2008. Download the 2017 update from the Minerals Council of Australia website.
Please note that this should be used as a guide only and not as a substitute for the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 (MRSDA) or for legal advice.
For advice and information on a range of issues contact the Customer Service Centre on 136 186 between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday, or find out other ways to contact us.
Page last updated: 23 Aug 2023