On 19 October 2012, the Mineral Resources Act was subject to a number of amendments. One amendment of particular importance to the holders of exploration tenements concerned Section 139 (Periodic reduction in area of exploration permit).

Prior to 19 October 2012, the former Section 139 provided (amongst other things) that the area of an exploration permit must be reduced (for minerals other than coal) by 50% by the end of the first 2 years after the permit is granted and by a further 50% by the end of each subsequent year. Where the permit was an exploration permit for coal, relinquishment was to be “….in the way and to the extent decided by the Minister when the permit is granted or renewed”.

In short, the recent amendment to Section 139 is generally a more favourable outcome for the holder of the exploration tenement. This is because the new Section 139 provides that the area of the permit must be reduced by 40% at the end of the first 3 years after the relevant permit is granted, and by a further 50% of the remaining area by the end of the first 5 years after the permit was granted. For subsequent renewals of an exploration permit, the same area of reduction applies, “after the day the renewed permit started”.

It should be noted that with either the “old” Section 139 or the “new” Section 139, such relinquishment “regimes” are to apply “unless” the Minister otherwise decides.

Should you require any further advice regarding same please do not hesitate to contact us.