Improvements to the exploration activity assessment process have been introduced as part of the Improved Management of Exploration Regulation (IMER) reforms. The improvements aim to simplify assessment requirements for lower impact exploration activities.

Assessment of exploration activity applications has been streamlined for Complying Exploration Activities (CEAs) that the Department has determined are unlikely to have a significant impact on the environment, such as those that meet specific location requirements and satisfy stringent impact thresholds and criteria.

The activity must also be undertaken in accordance with all relevant Codes of Practice and/or title conditions, as well as subject to any limits and management controls the explorer described in their application.

Applying for an Exploration Activity Approval

Note: Submission of an application via an online form has been temporarily suspended.

Certain exploration activities with minimal environmental impact have been identified as exempt development under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007 (Mining SEPP). These minimal impact activities do not require further environmental assessment or approval prior to being carried out.

All other exploration activities, known as Assessable Prospecting Operations, require further approval from the Minister (or delegate) prior to being carried out.

The ESF4 – Exploration Activities Application (fillable) form must be used to seek approval for (or modifications to), Assessable Prospecting Operations.

For the purposes of conditions of authorisations/titles issued prior to 1 July 2015, the application form ESF4 constitutes a Surface Disturbance Notice (SDN) for the notification of exploration activities.

Proponents should refer to the following for assistance when completing the application form ESF4:

Other applications

Proponents can use the following application forms when submitting other applications, plans and reports (other than an Exploration Activity Approval):

Other applications, and plans accepted by the Environmental Sustainability Unit include:

Lodging an application

All applications must now be lodged via email (preferred), post or in person.  Please provide an electronic copy of the application if submitting via post or in person.

  • Email: (Note: We can accept emails up to a maximum file size of 25MB . Where an application is larger, the file may be split into several parts for submission. Alternatively, a file sharing program may be used.)
  • Office: 516 High Street, Maitland NSW 2320
  • Post: Environmental Sustainability Unit, NSW Department of Industry, Division of Resources & Energy, PO Box 344, Hunter Region Mail Centre NSW 2310

What to include in the application

When submitting an application, or plan (other than an Exploration Activity Approval), please include the following:

  • Contact name and phone number for the application
  • Company Name and ABN / ACN
  • Indicate if the application is:
    • A new application
    • Submission of additional information in relation to a current application. i.e. information that has been requested by an assessing officer of the Department. Include the reference number of the application to which the additional information relates.
    • An application to modify to an existing approval (including a MOP Amendment). Include the reference number of the original application to which the modification relates. Note: For a modification to an exploration activity approval please use the application form ESF4 – Exploration Activities Application


Annual Activity Reports must be submitted via Exploration & Environmental Reports Online Lodgement (EROL). The requirement for reports are detailed in


NSW Department of Industry may make the information in the online form and any supporting information available for inspection by members of the public (including online publication or display at one of our offices). If you consider any part of your application to be confidential, please provide that part in a separate addendum clearly marked 'Confidential'.

NSW Department of Industry may also provide the information to other government agencies for the purposes of its assessment. You may access or correct your information by contacting us.

Processing of applications and service delivery standards

Applications will be assessed according to the Division's assessment procedures. One of our officers may contact you if we need more information.

Service delivery standards have been implemented for the processing of applications under the Mining Act 1992.

'Stop the clock' provisions

In order to efficiently process and report on applications, a process has been implemented that includes 'stop the clock' provisions. The processing clock starts when a complete application, including all required supporting material is received. Processing is complete when the applicant is notified of the result of the decision. Further information is provided on stop the clock events.

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