Read the IMER and exploration reform video transcript PDF icon [97 KB PDF]

Subscribe to email alertsImproved Management of Exploration Regulation (IMER) is a complete overhaul of NSW exploration  regulation, with tough streamlined rules across all types of exploration activities. The reforms dramatically reduce regulatory duplication, with 69 petroleum conditions, 54 coal conditions and 35 minerals conditions cut to some 11 standard conditions for all resources.

The reforms promote stronger accountability for industry, as well as the use of innovation and best practice to meet risk-based requirements. Most importantly, they offer the community greater clarity and confidence in the regulation of the sector.

The adoption of a risk-based regulatory framework is part of the NSW Government's Quality Regulatory Services initiative and brings NSW into line with governments in other states and overseas that have shifted to risk-based frameworks, particularly in the areas of exploration, mining and environmental protection.

Read more about the changes in this presentation to industry, Implementation of the improved management of exploration regulation PDF [1.07 MB PDF].

Key components

Key components of the reforms include:

  • All title rights and obligations have been integrated into one simple and clear document.
  • Three-year administrative limits on licence terms for mineral explorers have been removed, allowing explorers to seek a title for the full statutory six years (from 1 March 2016).
  • 158 conditions across petroleum, coal and minerals will be replaced by some 13 new conditions that will apply to all activities undertaken under a licence and at all times (there are no dormant conditions).
  • Work programs now cover not only pure exploration activities (i.e. prospecting operations), but also environmental management, rehabilitation and community consultation. This better reflects the expected financial and technical competencies needed for exploration. Also, work programs for mineral and coal are currently only used for assessing whether an exploratory title should be granted or renewed. Standard conditions will now require compliance with the work program during the term of a licence and set a minimum standard of performance under an exploratory licence, but not a cap.
  • New Codes of Practice will support the regulation of specific activities and will impose enforceable mandatory requirements. Where there is a higher risk, prescriptive regulation will be applied.
  • In order to minimise disparate reporting periods over a year, explorers can now submit all reports at the same time, including the summary activity, exploration, environment management, rehabilitation, and community consultation reports.

In late 2015, the following was introduced:

  • Streamlined assessment of exploration applications for complying exploration activities that are unlikely to have a significant impact on the environment, meet specific location requirements and satisfy stringent impact thresholds and criteria.
  • Intensive mineral and coal exploration activities, as well as petroleum exploration activities, will be analysed and assessed in greater detail and exploration applications for these activities must be accompanied by thorough environmental impact assessment information.


For the community

Under the existing system, the community was not always aware of the conditions imposed on explorers as part of title applications or activity approvals. Under IMER, the minimum standards in the codes are known at the outset and the requirements are less complex and in plain English. This provides the community with improved clarity of what is expected of industry as part of the exploration process.

The reforms also serve to boost community confidence in exploration, with regulation that not only better meets risk-based needs affecting the local area, but also increases the level of compliance and enforcement by focusing on areas where the risks are greatest.

The new mandatory community consultation code effective 1 March 2016 provides an enhanced understanding of the consultation requirements of industry.

For industry

IMER will boost the NSW exploration and mining sector with significant time and cost savings resulting from more predictable regulation, more consistent application of regulation, and the elimination of duplication and overlap with existing regulatory requirements. In addition, the less complicated, risk-based regulatory system offers greater opportunities for explorers to innovate and adopt best practice to meet requirements. Benefits will also result from full statutory licence terms for minerals titles and more streamlined activity approvals.

The process maps below highlight some of the key reforms and how they apply to explorers. Click on the graphics below to download a PDF version of the reforms related to petroleum or coal and other minerals.