Offshore Exploration and Mining

The term ‘offshore mining’ relates to the exploration for, and mining of, minerals (other than petroleum) offshore—that is, beyond the coastal baseline, in the sea and the seabed.

Under the 1979 Offshore Constitutional Settlement, the Commonwealth and the states/Northern Territory agreed to introduce a common mining code to apply from the territorial sea baseline (generally the low water mark) out to the edge of Australia's continental shelf. It was also agreed that this common mining code would be governed by complementary Commonwealth and state offshore minerals legislation.

The Offshore Minerals Act 1994 (the Act) establishes a regulatory regime for the exploration (and production) of minerals in Commonwealth waters that adheres to the principals of the Offshore Constitutional Settlement.

Under the Act, exploration and recovery of resources found within the coastal waters of a state (that is, the first three nautical miles of the Australian territorial sea beyond the low water mark) are administered by the state. Responsibility for minerals operations in Australia’s offshore areas beyond three nautical miles from the coastal baseline rests with the Australian Government.

The department, in partnership with the states and the Northern Territory, advises the Joint Authority (the relevant state and Commonwealth Minister) in relation to the award of exploration permits and other titles under the Act. It also works with the states/NT to regulate industry activities.

Following discovery of a mineral resource, the successful explorer maintains the right, subject to development approvals to ensure appropriate regard to safety, the environment and good practice, to construct infrastructure to exploit the resource.

Related documents



More information

For more information about offshore minerals exploration in Australia, email

For information about making an application under the Act, see the Offshore Minerals—Guideline for Applicants (see Related documents).

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