Types of minerals permits

New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals issues permits to prospect, explore and mine minerals.

These permits are defined in the Crown Minerals Act 1991 and the Minerals Programme for Minerals 2013.

Minerals permits are classified as Tier 1 or Tier 2.

Permits do not give the permit holder automatic rights to access the permit area. Generally for exploration and mining activities, permit holders must arrange land access with the landowner and occupier. For minimum impact activity, 10 days' notice is required (except over special classes of land, such as urban conservation land).

Read more in our Land Access fact sheet.

Permit types

Prospecting permits

Prospecting permits give the permit holder the right to prospect for specified minerals. Allowed activities are very low-impact, such as literature searches, geological mapping, hand sampling, offshore sampling (by low-impact mechanical methods), or aerial surveys.

Generally onshore permits are no larger than 500 square kilometres, and offshore permits have a maximum area of 5,000 square kilometres. Permits are normally granted for two years. An extension for up to half the permit area can be granted for two years and this can be extended up to a total of four years from the permit commencement date.

Permits are granted to the first acceptable work programme. They are normally exclusive (unless a non-exclusive permit is requested).

Exploration permits

Minerals exploration permits give permit holder the exclusive right to explore for specified minerals in an area.

It is not necessary to have a prospecting permit before applying for an exploration permit. It is common for operators to ‘skip’ a prospecting permit and apply for an exploration permit where ‘higher impact’ work is planned. Permitted activities may include literature reviews, drilling, bulk sampling and mine feasibility studies.

Mineral exploration permit areas are a minimum of 150 hectares.

Permits may be allocated through an acceptable work programme offer, subsequent to a prospecting permit, as part of a competitive process for newly available acreage (NAA), or as part of a Minerals tender.

Ordinarily granted for five years, exploration permits may be extended up to 10 years from commencement, for either half of the area or 150 hectares, whichever is greater. Appraisal extensions are possible for up to four years, with a second four year extension possible.

There are three ways to apply for a minerals exploration permit:

ApproachPermit tierDescription

Acceptable work programme offer (AWPO)

  • Tier 1

  • Tier 2

  • Non-exlusive Tier 1 permits

The most common way to apply for a permit. Also known as a Priority in Time application.

Permits are granted to the first application that meets our criteria for an acceptable work programme.

Newly available acreage (NAA)

  • Tier 1

  • Tier 2

Applications are part of a competitive process used to allocate permits in areas that have become available due to the expiry, surrender, revocation or relinquishment of a permit.

Applications must be made within 40 working days from the NAA opening date. They are assessed based on the proposed work programme.

Read more about NAAs currently in progress.

Competitive tender

  • Tier 1

Permits are allocated through a competitive process. Usually based assessment of a proposed, staged work programme.

Mining permits

Minerals mining permits grant the permit holder the exclusive right to mine for specified minerals. Permits are granted where the exact nature and extent of the mineable mineral resource or exploitable mineral deposit is known.

Permits may be allocated for an acceptable work programme offer, subsequent to an exploration permit or as part of a newly available acreage (NAA) allocation process.

The size of a Tier 1 permit will reflect the extent of the discovery and the proposed work programme.

Tier 2 permits are ordinarily:

  • no larger than 50 hectares for hobby/recreational operations, and
  • no larger than 200 hectares for other purposes.

The size and duration of permits reflects the discovery.

Permit tiers and restrictions

NZP&M's two tiered system of permit management allocates either a Tier 1 or Tier 2 status to all permits.

Tier 1 permits are complex, higher risk and return mineral operations requiring a more hands-on, proactive management and regulatory regime.

Any permit – irrespective of mineral type, the year of permit’s life, or any threshold amounts – are classified tier 1 if it:

  • relates to an underground operation.
  • relates to an operation that is wholly or partially 50m or more beyond the seaward side of the mean high water mark
  • is not for a special purpose mining activity

Tier 2 permits are lower return industrial, small business, and hobby mineral operations needing a simpler, more pragmatic mangement regime. Tier 2 permits cover prospecting, exploration, mining permits, and any other permit that does not fall under Tier 1 definition.

Prospecting permits

Prospecting permits for gold, silver, platinum group metals, coal, ironsand or any other metallic mineral (excluding alluvial gold) are classified tier 1.

Exploration permits

Exploration permits for gold, silver, platinum group metals, coal, ironsand or any other metallic mineral  are classified tier 1 unless the expected total work programme expenditure in relation to the permit for the final five years of its life, or for the entire duration (if the permit is less than five years) is - in the Minister’s opinion - less than $1,250,000.

Mining permits

Mining permits for gold, silver,  and platinum group metals are classified tier 1 if in any one permit year in the next five years of its life, the annual royalty will be equal to or more than $50,000

Mining permits for coal, ironsand or any other metallic mineral are classified tier 1 if in any one permit year in the next five years of its life, the annual production will be equal to or more than:

  • 200,000 tonnes of coal
  • 500,000 tonnes of ironsand
  • 500,000 tonnes of metallic minerals ore
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