File number: T98/0566
Date of policy: Updated December 2008
NSW Department of Primary Industries: Mineral Resources Criteria for Assessment Lease Applications


An assessment lease is designed to allow retention of rights over an area in which a significant deposit has been identified, if mining the deposit is not commercially viable in the short term but there is a reasonable prospect that it will be in the longer term.  The holder is allowed to continue prospecting operations and to recover minerals in the course of assessing the viability of commercial mining.

Essentially, an assessment lease is designed to allow the developer to maintain a title over a potential project area, without necessarily having to commit to further exploration, as would normally be the case with the retention of an exploration licence.  However, these leases are not intended to allow the holders to tie up resources indefinitely and there is an expectation that there will be direct expenditure on the area.

Assessment leases may be granted for up to five years and may be renewed for further periods of up to five years.

Criteria for assessment of leases applications

Although each application is treated on its merits, on a case specific basis, it is important that applications meet certain preliminary criteria, similar to, but not as exhaustive as those that would be required for mining lease applications.

The main criteria for approving assessment lease applications are as follows:

1. Exploration must generally have been completed to a level of confidence which would allow the resource to be classified into the categories of either indicated or measured, as defined by the Australasian Code for Reporting Identified Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves, published by the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.  A resource/reserve statement consistent with the code must therefore accompany any application.

2. A basic conceptual mine plan (based on the resource/reserve statement) and taking into account optimal resource recovery, surrounding constraints (geological, geographical and cultural) and other nearby existing or potential mining operations.  For the application to proceed, this plan will require approval by the Department.  Ideally, this would be considered during a pre-application liaison process with the Department.

3. A pre-feasibility or evaluation study (based on the conceptual mine plan), including basic costs and project economics, as well as highlighting the factors most likely to affect project viability and the timing of development.

4. The application area must generally coincide with what would normally be appropriate for a mining lease.  It must include the mining area outlined in the conceptual mine plan, together with areas for infrastructure and any appropriate buffer zone.  Any portions of the original exploration title beyond the application should be relinquished, unless the applicant can justify the retention of these areas.

5. Where the application involves potential open cut mining, or is likely to have a significant impact on the surface, the applicant will be required to provide the Department with a strategy for dealing with the owners of affected land.  If required, an assessment lease can be granted for a potential underground mine, with appropriate surface exceptions.

6. A work program, designed to ensure the project has the maximum chance of proceeding to development and compliance with this program will become a condition of the lease, must accompany the application.

With certain industrial minerals, particularly those where evolving markets, or processing technology development is a significant factor, it may not be possible to address all the issues required in the above criteria.  In such cases, applications would have to be judged on the available information and the potential benefit the project may eventually have for the State.

Application processing

It is desirable that potential applicants consult with the Department, at least at the regional level, prior to applying, in order to ensure that their proposal is appropriate for an assessment lease.  The applicant may be requested to make a presentation to the Director Minerals Development and the application area may require modification before it is finally accepted.  In the event that an application is lodged prior to consultation with the Department, the processing of the application would be held in abeyance pending an assessment of the appropriateness of the application, on the basis of the criteria in this policy.

The statutory requirements for applications for assessment leases and processing of such applications are contained in Part 4 and Schedule 1 Part 1 of the Mining Act 1992 and Clause 12 of the Mining (General) Regulation 1997.  The processing includes the notification of materially affected Government agencies, the Director of the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources and affected local Councils.  The notified agencies then have the opportunity to object to the grant of an assessment lease on the grounds that they have a major proposal for some other use for the land.

During the processing of assessment lease applications both Geological Survey and the Environmental Unit of the Department are referenced and their comments sought with regard to the appropriateness of the proposed assessment lease.

Surface disturbing activities on assessment leases will be controlled through the conditions of the title.  This is done in the same way as exploration licences, where activities are divided into three categories, with various approval processes for each of the categories, including the requirement for environmental assessment and determination under Part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, in some circumstances.


In order to comply with the policy objective of not allowing assessment leases to tie up resources indefinitely, applications for renewal would have to provide serious justification for the continuation of the title. 

In addition to any special circumstances outlined in their justification, the applicant will have to address the criteria outlined in this policy at an even higher level than with the original application.

For further information
Resource Operations
+61 (0)2 4063 6600
PO Box 344 Hunter Region Mail Centre NSW 2310
Resource Operations, Mining, Exploration and Geoscience, Department of Regional NSW, PO Box 344 Hunter Region Mail Centre NSW 2310
516 High Street Maitland NSW 2320 Map