Northern Territory Government

Fossicking in the Northern Territory

Questions and answers

  1. Do I need a permit?
  2. What can I discover?
  3. How much can I collect?
  4. What can I do with what I find?
  5. What tools can I use?
  6. What can't I remove?
  7. Where can I fossick?
  8. Where can't I fossick?
  9. Can I fossick on proposed fossicking areas?
  10. Do I need to notify anyone before fossicking?
  11. Who do I need to notify about fossicking on their land?
  12. Are there any special requirements for pastoral land or granted exploration licences?
  13. What other land requires consent prior to entry for fossicking?
  14. What is constructive consent?
  15. How do I provide a landowner with a fossicking notice/fossicking request?
  16. How do I contact the mineral title holders, pastoralists and private landowners?
  17. Can a person refuse to give consent to enter the land?
  18. What happens if I have been refused entry to fossick?
  19. Can access be withdrawn after I have been given consent?
  20. What documents do I need to carry with me when fossicking?
  21. What offences relate to fossicking?
  22. Can I use firearms and other weapons?
  23. Are domestic animals allowed?
  24. What about infrastructure?
  25. What else should I not do?
  26. What should I do?
  27. Is there anything about digging I need to know?
  28. Where can I camp?
  29. How do I stay safe?
  30. Where can I obtain maps of the fossicking areas?
  31. What happens if I don't have permission from the pastoralist or mineral title holder to fossick on their land?

1. Do I need a permit?

No permit is needed to fossick in the Northern Territory. However you may need to notify some landowners / occupiers of your intention to fossick on their land.

For further information refer to the information bulletin: fossicking - land access.

2. What can I discover?

  • minerals
  • gemstones (precious stones)
  • semi-precious stones (ornamental stones)
  • crystals
  • alluvial gold, including nuggets
  • rocks

Gems and minerals dictionary

3. How much can I collect?

Fossicking can be conducted for recreational purposes but not for commercial gain.

You can extract the following amounts of rocks, minerals or crystals:

  • 100 gm of gold, including nuggets
  • 1 kg of gemstones
  • 20 kg of a mineral other than gold or gemstones
  • 100 kg of mineral bearing material
  • 100 kg of ornamental stones

Should a nugget/s in excess of 100 gm be discovered, you may keep your find providing any required consents have been complied with and the Minister is notified of the location of the gold within 28 days of the discovery.

For more information refer to fossicking rights and obligations information bulletin.

Note: Extracting more than the prescribed limits is an offence.

If you wish to extract a commercial quantity of rocks, minerals or crystals for sale, you may wish to consider applying for a mineral title which will allow you to do so. In the first instance, contact the Department of Primary Industry and Resources to discuss your requirements and which title would best suit your purpose.

4. What can I do with what I find?

Selling the occasional lucky find or selling or swapping material to another hobbyist at exhibitions is permitted. However, fossicking conducted in the NT is a recreational activity and not for commercial gain. Selling minerals as a profit-making venture that contributes substantially to your income is considered commercial and is not permitted.

5. What tools can I use?

You can search for and extract limited amounts of rocks, minerals and crystals by means of digging by hand or by using hand held tools, to a depth of one metre.

Tools that may be used for this purpose include a pick, hammer, shovel, sieve, pan, shaker, basin and metal detector.

You may also use power operated equipment, such as a dry blower or sluice to screen or separate material however you are not permitted to use power operated equipment or engine driven equipment such as jackhammers, dredges or spading tools to extract any material.

The use of explosives is not permitted.

For more information refer to fossicking rights and obligations information bulletin.

6. What can't I remove?

  • fossils of vertebrate animals - these are animals having a spinal column or notochord including mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians.
  • fossil specimens referred to as "type specimens" are of scientific importance and are protected.
  • meteorite fragments - these are of scientific value and should not be tampered with.
  • diamonds
  • Aboriginal artefacts (including stone tools, human  bones and rock art)
  • heritage objects (as declared under the Heritage Act 2011).

7. Where can I fossick?

You can fossick on any land providing the correct notifications and consents are gained. There are no restrictions to fossicking on the following land and a person may fossick without giving notice of their intention or obtaining consent, to do so:

  • vacant Crown land
  • a declared fossicking area
  • the application area of an exploration licence or extractive mineral exploration licence
  • the granted area of an extractive mineral exploration licence.

Note: If fossicking in a declared fossicking area, you must comply with any conditions imposed by the Northern Territory Minister in addition to any other laws in force in relation to the land.

If not within a declared fossicking area, you must comply with the reasonable conditions or requests of the landowner/occupier or mineral title holder of the land on which you are fossicking.

8. Where can't I fossick?

  • Aboriginal sacred sites
  • any Commonwealth land including defence facilities and national parks such as Uluru and Kakadu.

9. Can I fossick on proposed fossicking Areas?

These areas have not been gazetted as declared fossicking areas as yet and but have been gazetted as reserved land. The Department of Primary Industry and Resources is in the process of identifying specific areas within this gazetted region for declaration as fossicking areas. This process may take some time as many factors, such as native title implications and consent from landowners, need to be considered prior to any declaration taking place.

In the meantime, you are permitted to access these areas after obtaining the appropriate consents from the Minister (fossicking request form - reserved land) and notifying the pastoralist of your intentions (fossicking notice/request form).

For individual requirements refer to the information bulletin: fossicking - land access.

10. Do I need to notify anyone before fossicking?

Prior to entering certain areas to fossick, you may need to give at least 7 days' written notice (a fossicking notice) to the landowner/occupier or mineral title holder. In circumstances where written consent is required, you must request consent in writing (a fossicking request) from the landowner/occupier and/or title holder, at least 14 days in advance.

It is important to note that due to the size and remoteness of some pastoral properties in the Territory, mail may only be received on a fortnightly or monthly basis. Please take this into account and plan ahead, providing as much notice as possible.

Entry onto the land is not permitted until consent is received.

Before you can determine whether you need to notify anyone, you must firstly work out what the land tenure is and whether there are any granted mineral titles or applications for mineral titles in the area you wish to conduct fossicking activities. Once land tenure is established, refer to information bulletin: fossicking - land access for details of what land requires a fossicking notice or a fossicking request.

11. Who do I need to notify about fossicking on their land?

You may fossick on pastoral land or the granted area of an exploration licence only after providing the landowner/occupier of the pastoral land or the title holder of the exploration licence a fossicking notice. This notice must be sent at least 7 days before entering the land.

It is an offence to enter the relevant land without providing the required notice or obtaining consent (regulation 106 & 107).

It is important to note that due to the size and remoteness of some pastoral properties in the Territory, mail may only be received on a fortnightly or monthly basis. Please take this into account and plan ahead, providing as much notice as possible.

As well as providing the pastoralist with a notice of your intention to fossick on their pastoral lease, you are encouraged to report to the homestead upon arrival so the pastoralist can clearly define any areas that are under pastoral activity and may direct you to another area, or identify areas suitable for camping.

For full details of who you need to send a fossicking notice to, refer to information bulletin fossicking - land access.

12. Are there any special requirements for pastoral land or granted exploration licences?

In some circumstances you may be required to obtain consent before entering pastoral land or a granted exploration licence area to start fossicking.

These circumstances are:

Pastoral land

  • where the area of land you intend to fossick on is at the time, clearly and actively being used for a particular pastoral activity
  • is within 2 km of a homestead
  • is within 1 km of a stockyard or an artificial watering point.

Note: As well as providing the pastoralist with a notice of your intention to fossick on their pastoral lease, you are encouraged to report to the homestead upon arrival so the pastoralist can clearly define any areas that are under pastoral activity and may direct you to another area, or identify areas suitable for camping.

Granted exploration licence area

  • where you intend to fossick for gold within the title area and the title holder is actively conducting authorised activities on the land
  • if any of the above conditions apply, you are required to provide a fossicking request as outlined in information bulletin fossicking - land access.

13. What other land requires consent prior to entry for fossicking?

At least 14 days before the intended entry onto the land to fossick, you must provide a fossicking request to the required person in relation to the following land:

Reserved land, except reserved land in a declared fossicking area under the Mineral Titles Act

  • Aboriginal land
  • an Aboriginal community living area
  • a park or reserve
  • private land
  • the title area of a mineral lease, extractive mineral permit or extractive mineral lease
  • the application area of a mineral lease, extractive mineral permit or extractive mineral lease.

If the request for consent relates to land that is a park, reserve, private land or pastoral land where you are required to obtain consent, you must bring to the landowner's attention that consent will be taken to be given if they do not respond within 2 months after you have given them the notice. This is called constructive consent (see following section).

It is important to note that constructive consent does not relate to reserved land, Aboriginal land, Aboriginal community living area or to the title area or application area for a mineral title mentioned above.

You must not enter these areas unless you hold written consent.

To fossick on Aboriginal land you must also obtain a permit from the Land Council for the area where you wish to fossick.

For more information refer to the information bulletin: fossicking -  land access

14. What is constructive consent?

If a fossicking request has been served, and the landowner has not responded in writing within 2 months, the landowner is taken to have given consent. If you have entered the land under this condition, you are required to carry proof that you have served a fossicking request on the landowner.

15. How do I provide a landowner with a fossicking notice/fossicking request?

A fossicking notice must be provided to the landowner/occupier or mineral title holder at least 7 days before you intend to enter the relevant land.

In circumstances requiring consent, a fossicking request must be given to the landowner/ occupier or mineral title holder a minimum 14 days before the intended entry date onto the land.

It is important to note that in some circumstances, the fossicking notice/fossicking request will need to be sent (and consent obtained from) multiple people such as landowners, occupiers and/or title holders dependent on the type of land tenure where fossicking is intended.

The fossicking notice/fossicking request needs to be delivered to the recipient, usually by Australia Post or email.

Due to the size and remoteness of some pastoral properties in the Territory, mail may only be received on a fortnightly or monthly basis. Please take this into account and plan ahead, providing as much notice as possible.

Note: As well as providing the pastoralist with a notice of your intention to fossick on their pastoral lease, you are encouraged to report to the homestead upon arrival so the pastoralist can clearly define any areas that are under pastoral activity and may direct you to another area, or identify areas suitable for camping.

The fossicking notice/fossicking request must include detailed information as required by legislation. The Department of Primary Industry and Resources has created a combined fossicking notice/fossicking request that you can use.

16. How do I contact the mineral title holders, pastoralists and private landowners?

Details of any mineral titles (granted or applications), pastoral leases etc. can be obtained from STRIKE.

Pastoral lease holder contact details are available from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources website or email rangelands@nt.gov.au with requests for information.  If details are not available from this source email your request to titles.info@nt.gov.au.

It is up to the fossicker to source the required contact details these can usually be found on the internet or from telephone directories.

17. Can a person refuse to give consent to enter the land?

Where fossicking would substantially interfere with the landowner/occupier or mineral title holder's use of the land i.e. mustering, farming, exploration operations, the landowner/occupier or mineral title holder may refuse a Fossicking Request by giving written notice, stating the reasons for the refusal.

More information is available from the information bulletin: fossicking rights and obligations.

18. What happens if I have been refused entry to fossick?

Where you believe consent has been unreasonably withheld you can make an application to the Lands, Planning and Mining Tribunal to have the matter decided.

Contact details and office hours for the Tribunal are:

Chairperson: Mr Greg Cavanagh
Registrar: Alicia-Ann Heyworth

Location:
Level 3, Zone A
Nichols Place
Magistrates Courts
Cnr Cavanagh and Bennett Street
Darwin NT 0801

Telephone: (08) 8999 5001
Facsimile: (08) 8999 5005
Email: landsmining.tribunal@nt.gov.au

19. Can access be withdrawn after I have been given consent?

The landowner/occupier or mineral title holder who has consented to a fossicking request may, by written notice to the fossicker, withdraw consent if they reasonably believe that the person has contravened requirements or conditions under the Act relating to fossicking, or the person's fossicking is interfering with the use of the land i.e. mustering, farming, exploration operations etc.

More information is available from the information bulletin: fossicking rights and obligations.

20. What documents do I need to carry with me when fossicking?

When carrying out fossicking activities, you and members of your fossicking party must have in your possession:

  • photographic identification; and
  • in relation to land or a title area where a person is required to give a fossicking notice - proof that a fossicking notice was given;
  • in relation to all land where consent has been given to fossick - the document giving consent; or
  • where a person is required to obtain written consent, has served the fossicking request and no written response is received within 2 months, consent is deemed. If a fossicker has entered the land under this condition, they are required to carry proof that they gave a fossicking request to the landowner.

You must show the documents to any of the following persons who ask to see them and failure to do so can result in penalties:

  • the landowner/occupier of the land
  • if the land is in the title area of a mineral title, the title holder
  • an authorised officer or police officer.

You are also obligated to comply with other laws in force in relation to the land on which you are fossicking.

More information is available from the information bulletin: fossicking rights and obligations.

21. What offences relate to fossicking?

All offences, and associated penalties, are described under the Mineral Titles Regulations 106 to 113 and summarised in information bulletin: fossicking - offences.

22. Can I carry or use firearms and other weapons?

You are not permitted to use or carry any form of firearm or offensive weapon while undertaking fossicking activities regardless of the underlying land tenure.

23. Are domestic animals allowed?

Domestic animals/pets (such as a dog or cat etc) pose a threat to native fauna, may unsettle livestock and disrupt pastoral activities. If you are travelling with a domestic animal, you must make alternative arrangements for their care, prior to entering any land to fossick.

24. What about Infrastructure?

It is an offence to interfere with any infrastructure on the land, including gates, outbuildings, feeding troughs, tanks, bores etc. Please remember to leave all gates as you find them.

25. What else should I not do?

  1. disturb livestock
  2. camp within one kilometre of, or wash in, dams, bores, billabongs or tanks which are used for livestock water
  3. light an open fire in an uncleared area or where there is a fire ban or gusty winds, or leave a fire unattended at any time
  4. use water conserved artificially, such as a dam, on the land without the landowners consent
  5. engage in activities not related to fossicking.

26. What should I do?

  1. keep alert for hazards at all times
  2. take extreme care when fossicking below quarry faces, high banks, cliffs and rocks
  3. gather firewood before entering areas to fossick
  4. make sure you put out all fires before leaving
  5. remove all rubbish and leave the area clean and tidy
  6. leave all property as you find it
  7. leave all gates as you find them
  8. be friendly to the environment, and above all
  9. enjoy yourselves!

27. Is there anything about digging I need to know?

  • you are not permitted to dig more than one metre below the line of the natural contour of the surface of the land.
  • unstable ground is dangerous. Before digging, thoroughly check the condition of the ground.
  • for safety reasons it is advisable not to undermine banks, create tunnels or overhangs, or work on steep or unstable slopes.
  • please take special care not to:
    • work close to or in the banks or slopes of banks of billabongs, creeks, streams or rivers.
    • interrupt or divert the flow of creeks, streams, rivers.
    • dig beneath the leafy canopy of trees.
  • digging on roads is not permitted. However, you may collect any free material lying along road edges.
  • the walls of holes are to be left with a face of not steeper than 30 degrees from the horizontal.
  • please leave all ground as you find it and backfill all holes with the original material removed to help maintain the environment and stop fauna from becoming trapped or injured.

28. Where can I camp?

Camping is permitted on some fossicking areas. Fossicking areas where camping is permitted do not provide any on site facilities, including water supplies. You will need to be self-sufficient.

In all other areas, you are not entitled to camp anywhere you wish and should seek permission from the landowner/occupier or mineral title holder.

29. How do I stay safe?

When fossicking you should take proper precautions regarding your personal safety and the security of your belongings. The Northern Territory of Australia accepts no responsibility for injury, loss or damage arising from fossicking activities.

The Northern Territory's extreme temperatures can make it hazardous to inexperienced fossickers. Following a few simple safety tips may make your fossicking adventure more enjoyable.

  • carry plenty of drinking water
  • carry detailed maps of the area
  • protect yourself from the harsh rays of the tropical sun at all times
  • wear suitable covered footwear
  • wear eye protection (safety glasses) when digging or breaking rocks
  • carry a first aid kit and know how to use it
  • ensure your vehicle is roadworthy and be equipped with tools and spares to cover simple breakdowns
  • carry adequate supplies of water, fuel and food
  • seek local advice on road conditions (phone 1800 246 199 for daily road reports or view the road report website)
  • notify local Police or other reliable people of your itinerary if travelling off the beaten track. If you break down or become lost or stranded, remain with your vehicle
  • it is recommended to carry an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) or other such global positioning device.

30. Where can I obtain maps of fossicking areas?

Up to date maps for the declared fossicking areas can be found on the individual site information.

31. What happens if I don't have permission from the pastoralist or mineral title holder to fossick on their land?

It is an offence to enter any relevant land if you have not given a Fossicking Notice/Fossicking Request (where required) to the landowner/occupier or mineral title holder.

If a landowner/occupier or mineral title holder gives you a notice of refusal or withdraws consent, you must leave the land without delay. Failure to do so is an offence under the Mineral Titles Act and is subject to penalty.

More information is available from the information bulletin: offences.