Exploration and Prospecting licences have tonnage limits as follows:
- Exploration Licence - 1000 tonnes
- Prospecting Licence - 500 tonnes.
When the tonnage limit will be exceeded by the proposed activities, an excess tonnage application must be submitted to the Title Compliance Branch via Mineral Titles Online (MTO). It is the responsibility of the tenement holder to maintain accurate records of tonnage disturbances on a tenement and to know when an excess tonnage application is required. Tenement holders should note that tonnage disturbance accumulates over the life of the tenement, is applied to a tenement as a whole (rather than the area of the tenement where the disturbance actually occurs) and is not reduced or removed as a result of rehabilitation activities, partial tenement surrender or conversion of tenure.
For all queries about the excess tonnage application process, please contact the Title Compliance Branch on +61 8 9222 0985.
The Hillside tonnage calculator can be used as a guide for calculating hillside tonnage estimates.
The 101 of excess tonnage and exploration
As a prospector or explorer, you’re most likely to need to disturb the land in some way and this means that you are going to be moving dirt.
The Mining Act 1978 allows the holders of a prospecting licence, special prospecting licence, exploration licence or retention licence the right to excavate and extract or remove from the land, earth, soil, rock, stone, fluid or mineral bearing substances within specified limits. These are outlined in the table below:
|Prospecting licence||500 tonnes|
|Special Prospecting Licence||500 tonnes|
|Exploration Licence||1000 tonnes|
|Retention Licence||1000 tonnes|
As a department, we receive applications for excess tonnage for an average 41 tenements per month. Since July 2017, more than 80 per cent of applications for excess tonnage have been approved, while three per cent are refused. Applications may be refused where the necessary Native Title or tenement holder consents are not provided; or where the related programme of work is not supported on environmental grounds; or where the proposed ground disturbing activities do not constitute prospecting or exploration.
The graph shows that the number of applications received varies throughout the year, with slightly higher applications made during the dry season months.
The revised Excess Tonnage Guideline released in May 2021 talks more about the requirements for submitting an excess tonnage application. The updates were to clarify the requirements for Native Title consent and to make clearer, the types of ground disturbing activities that require an excess tonnage application.
An applicant’s failure to follow the Guidelines results in our officers needing to contact applicants to seek the required information, increasing the time it takes to determine an application.
Your application needs to demonstrate:
- The activities you will be undertaking are for the purposes of prospecting or exploration.
- That you have completed your Programme of Works application and that your excess tonnage reflects the amount of ground disturbing activity (remember that you are allowed to move up to a cumulative 500 or 1000 tonnes without seeking excess tonnage).
- That you have authorisation from the tenement holder to undertake the proposed activities – i.e. if you don’t hold the tenement in your name, you need consent from the person that does and we need to know you have the authority to act on their behalf.
- If necessary, you have agreement from the relevant registered Native Title party. This means that if the cumulative tonnage on your tenement is more than 10,000, you will need to provide a letter of consent or a statutory declaration confirming you have agreement for the excess tonnage request when you apply. There is a helpful statutory declaration template on our website to assist with this requirement.
The application process itself has not changed following the release of the revised Guidelines. You may still lodge your application via Mineral Titles Online, or over the counter at one of our offices.
One final reminder, it is the responsibility of the tenement holder to maintain accurate records of tonnage disturbances and to seek excess tonnage and programme of works approvals when required. Your excess tonnage accumulates over the life of the tenement, and is not reduced or removed as a result of rehabilitation activities, partial tenement surrender or conversion of tenure.