Australia is one of the countries where metal detecting and especially gold prospecting are incredibly popular activities, mostly because there are lots of gold ore veins, and places with gold dust and nuggets there. This is why Australian government has actually taken effort to develop up-to-date and comprehensive rules and laws for metal detectorists. Therefore, to make metal detecting activity in Australia successful, the detectorists should, firstly, be aware of the local rules and laws, and secondly, have knowledge and skills of detecting. We will discuss the rules and laws in this overview; as for detecting knowledge and skills, you can learn more from our book “Time to Detect”.
Australia is a country comparatively rich in gold and other valuable metals and minerals. However, it is also well-known for its versatile land and environments. In fact, detecting in Australia is harsh due to geology, climate, wildlife, terrain, highly mineralized soils, etc. There are many passionate detectorists in the country, but the conditions they have to deal with are far less welcoming than for many other treasure hunters all over the world.
Due to the fact that Australia is so fond of metal detecting, treasure hunting, and gold prospecting Australia, not only its local laws are up-to-date and well-developed. Local communities are also very advanced. Minelab, one of the leading manufacturers of hobby and professional level metal detectors, was founded in Australia, and one of the main reasons for the company’s being founded was the desire to meet the needs of local detectorists.
In order to make metal detecting activity efficient in Australia, one has to invest some knowledge, efforts, and some money as well. This overview by Detect History will shed some light on the most important aspects of detecting in Australia.
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Since there are many places where gold dust and nuggets can be found, prospecting for gold is one of the most desired and discussed sub niches of Australian detecting. Many beginners dream of becoming famous and successful prospectors. Yet, first things first! Besides having proper equipment and decent skills, one has to be aware of the laws and rules!
Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that the information on laws and legislation provided below could have been already updated by the relevant governmental agencies of Australia, and Detect History may have failed to track the change fast enough to update the article. So, please double-check your local legislation on Australian metal detecting at all times. These rules may change way too fast.
Australian government does not prohibit gold prospecting or mining. However, most Australian states actually require a Miner’s license that gives permit for prospecting activities. If you are part of the group, every member of the group must hold their own personal license.
Northern Territory, metal detecting laws South Australia, and ACT do not require a Miner’s license. In metal detecting Victoria, Miner’s Right is required. Metal detecting laws NSW (New South Wales) and Queensland require a Fossicking Permit. Tasmania and Western Australia require a metal detecting for gold in Australia license.
For most cases of recreational activities, permits are not needed, unless the detectorist plans to detect in state forests or protected lands. Most permits are granted online, and cost from $20 to $50, and are valid for 12 months.
Miner’s Right/Fossicking Permit/Prospecting License can be obtained for a fee in the relevant local agency. Holder of such license or permit has the right to prospect for gold and minerals, conduct geological mapping, mining, and fossick for gemstones.
Illegal prospecting in Australia will most likely be quickly reported, and the punishments are quite impressive, suggesting huge penalties.
The rules may differ for states and territories, but the rule of thumb is that there are two types of mining claims. The first type is called prescribed and it suggests permits for an area up to 20 hectares. Such claims are obtained for machinery mining to retrieve gemstones and various valuable minerals. The other type of mining claim is a hand mining claim. For such a claim, the maximum size is 1 hectare, and only surface is allowed.
The claim defines maximum area for mining, entitles the holder to mine only specific metals or minerals, and according to the Australian legislation, a holder may only have direct or indirect interest in no more than two claims.
There are several important nuances to keep in mind to stake out a claim:
Mining claims in Australia are granted online via MyMinesOnline website. The miner must fill the form and wait for a response. If the permit is filed on paper, it should be mailed to Mines Assessment Hub.
Talking about Miner’s license and hand mining claim, the rules that must not be violated include:
Relics and jewelry are among other valuable things popular as targets during Australian metal detecting and relic hunting. Relics can be both valuable in financial terms, but also have historical and cultural significance. Jewelry, on the other hand, can be ancient or modern, and most probably valuable in both cases.
Specifically metal detecting laws in Australia do not differ much from gold prospecting laws. For both types of activities licenses and permits are necessary, the main difference is that one does not need to stake out claims for the sake of simple surface detecting for relics.
There are many specific rules about different lands and areas, and whether one is allowed to detect on these areas with Miner’s Permit, stake out claims, and so on. Unfortunately, it is impossible to list all the rules about all the states in this post. Local Australian detectorists should check the local rules out on an individual basis.
According to the general laws, it is possible to detect and prospect on:
Talking about the most popular (and most frequently allowed) places for detecting, they include:
However, there are nuances about public and private lands every Aussie detectorist should be aware of.
Most public land is allowed for hobby detecting, but as a rule, it is prohibited to treasure hunt within town sites, and sites otherwise classified as reserved – for example, cemeteries, archaeological sites, and certain historically significant sites.
The lands where exclusive native title rights exist can only be entered with permission from the Native Title party. Any Aboriginal heritage sites are prohibited for prospecting and even entering; breaches are punished by huge penalties.
Any private property like a farm can only be entered with a Permit to Enter issued by the local or state department of Mining and Minerals. In any case, the landowner must be contacted before the entry, even with the Permit. Moreover, if the detectorist expects any valuable finds on these private lands, they must discuss compensation with the landowner, and agree on it before any treasure hunting or mining starts.
In the majority of Australia states and Territories, national parks are prohibited for any land disturbance. Exceptions can be made for hobby detectorists with beginner level machines, but every case must be discussed separately, and depends on local rules that apply. No major mining or treasure hunting is most often impossible in national parks, and permit is unlikely to be granted.
Beaches, shallow waters metal detecting, and detecting around beach structures is usually allowed, but with a permit, plus local management should be informed beforehand, and safety measures must be taken according to metal detecting on the beach laws. If deeper underwater metal detecting is attempted, this is only possible within allowed swimming areas near the beach.
Since Australia is a welcoming place for treasure hunters, metal detectorists, gold prospectors, and miners, the code of ethics is really strong and is promoted by all relevant agencies and departments. So, every wannabe or beginner detectorist must consider the following nuances:
Australia is rich in potential finds, and these go far beyond modern things like smartphones or jewelry during beach metal detecting, or typical finds like coins or some old jewelry. In fact, there are many different types of metal detecting activities one can pursue – from hobby detecting and treasure hunting, to shallow water and underwater detecting, to gold prospecting, to mining minerals or gemstones!
More or less full list of potential finds includes (but is not limited to!): coins, relics and antiquities, old and modern jewelry, battlefield relics, aluminum ore, iron ore, lithium, gold, lead, diamond, uranium, zinc, ilmenite, zircon, rutile, nickel, silver, cobalt, copper, tin, titanium, magnesium, monazite, garnet, emerald, sapphire, ruby, opal, topaz, jade, molybdenum, niobium, tantalum, mineral sands, agate, amber, amethyst, aquamarine, jet, onyx, obsidian, moonstone, malachite, turquoise, tourmaline.
Of course, most of these potentially valuable finds are unavailable with beginner-medium level hobby metal detectors. To get an efficient machine, check out deep seeking metal detectors and metal detectors for gold.
Most finds can be kept by the detectorist, if these are pieces of modern or ancient jewelry, coins, or small battlefield relics. However, bigger hoards or old relics should be shown to local relevant authorities or museums, since certain finds can have historical significance and therefore they belong to the Crown.
If you locate gold, other valuable metals, minerals, or gemstones, there are three options for you. According to the Australian law, minerals are the property of the Crown. If the land where you have discovered minerals, metals, or gemstones, is Crown land and it is not covered by the mining tenement, then by the law you own the find. If the land is covered by the mining tenement, you can only keep the find and use it with the tenement holder’s permission (if you had their permission to prospect!). For all cases other than these two, the detectorists/miners must seek consultation from Exploration Licence holders and the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) within 2 weeks.
If you would like to learn more about what to do with the finds in terms of handling, cleaning, storing, evaluation, etc., you can check out Detect History blog and reviews.
Most beginner metal detectorists and treasure hunters may lack certain knowledge or skills purely due to lack of experience (and in treasure hunting, experience only comes with time!). So, little surprise that help and advice are sometimes needed even in seemingly simple situations.
There are many places to seek help and advice, and the simplest way is online. Firstly, you can check out the Detect History Book which is extremely useful for any beginner detectorist, and covers all major aspects and nuances needed to start the hobby successfully. The book will certainly help you avoid some widespread mistakes.
Other places to seek help include specialized metal detecting forums Australia, social media groups, and of course local metal detecting Australia clubs.
Specialized forums on metal detecting, treasure hunting, and gold prospecting are usually international, and therefore they are available for enthusiasts from around the globe, and are very informative. The biggest and the best metal detecting forums include Friendly Metal Detecting Forum, Treasure Net, Find’s Treasure Forums, Detector Prospector, The Dankowski Metal Detecting Forum, American Detectorist, and The Treasure Depot. You can learn a bit more about these forums in the blog post.
Purely metal detecting forums Australia include Gold Detecting and Prospecting Forum, Prospecting Australia Forum, Australian Metal Detecting and Relic Hunting Community.
You can also search for relevant groups on Facebook or Instagram, or other social networks you use. Most big websites or forums have their communities on social media, or even YouTube channels.
Many Aussie metal detecting clubs also have only communities or groups on social media, but some clubs have their own websites. Local Australian clubs include The Victorian Seekers Club, Brisbane Metal Detecting Club, Adelaide Detector Club Inc., Prospecting Tasmania, Southern Rockhounds, Bribie Island Gem & Fossicking Club Inc., West Coast Metal Detector Club. Joining a metal detecting club is always both helpful and fun; they usually form tightly knit communities that not only educate themselves on the hobby and go out on locations together, but have meetings, celebrate birthdays, and so on. Beginner detectorists can borrow or rent metal detectors from other members of the club, join more experienced colleagues for the search sessions, and get useful contacts of museums or private collectors.
Gold prospecting for beginners is kinda complicated, so to choose an efficient metal detector that would meet the prospector’s needs, one has to take into account a bunch of crucial factors. Check out Detect History’s detailed guideline on the best metal detectors for gold.
Relics can be found in all types of locations, and can feature various chemical compositions, so one needs a rather versatile metal detector machine to hunt for relics successfully. To choose the most fitting metal detector for relics and antiquities, check out Detect History’s guideline on the best metal detectors.
Beaches can be really fruitful places for treasure hunting and even gold prospecting, but shallow water and underwater detecting is not an easy task. In many cases, you will need to acquire a beach metal detecting permit. You will also need specific waterproof detectors with high quality discrimination and noise cancellation, and some other additional features. To choose the most convenient machine for beach metal detecting Australia, check out Detect History’s guideline on underwater detectors.
In most cases, metal detecting is allowed in public parks, on beaches, on fields and in forests, around small towns, in ghost towns, etc. However, every detectorist should double-check what laws and rules are applied particularly in their jurisdiction. Very often, even if the locations are allowed for hobby detecting, a permit or license is needed.
Fossicking is not permitted in national parks, conservation parks, wildlife reserves, state forests and state timber reserves, and also native title lands. Areas allowed for metal detecting in Queensland include areas established by the government with the permit of the local authorities and landholders, and private lands where landowners have given personal permission for detecting. Particularly in Queensland, these areas include Central Queensland gemfields, Central gold district, South-eastern Queensland fossicking, Northern Queensland fossicking, and Western opal fields.
Coins are among the objects you are likely to find literally everywhere. But the best places are where people spent their time – especially in previous years. These are roadsides, river banks, around old structures, even nearby old trees in the forest.
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