Exploration Agreement (Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth)) (Australia)


An agreement between a Land Council (after consultation with the Aboriginal traditional owners of the land affected by the exploration) and an applicant for an exploration licence, under s 40 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) (ALRA). The agreement contains the terms and conditions to which the grant of a licence will be subject.

Extended Definition

The ALRA requires a grantee applying for an exploration licence (the applicant) over Aboriginal land, as identified under the Act, to make an application to both the relevant Minister and to the relevant land council, for consent to the grant of an exploration licence or retention licence. The form of the application, the process for negotiation and the terms and conditions of the grant of such licences are set out in s 41 44 of the Act.

An application for consent to grant of an exploration licence over Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory must include a 'comprehensive proposal' of the proposed exploration activity, including information about (s 41(6)):
'(a) a description of the applicant and of the business activities of the applicant;
(b) a description of the affected land by reference to a map showing roads, topographical features, residential areas and other relevant features;
(c) a copy of the instrument by which the consent of the Northern Territory Mining Minister was given and of any conditions relevant to the potential impact of the exploration works on the affected land and on Aboriginals, being conditions that are, under a law of the Northern Territory relating to mining for minerals, likely to be conditions to which the grant of the exploration licence will be subject;
(d) an outline of the proposed exploration program stating, as far as practicable, the location, and likely effect, of proposed exploration works, and including details of:
(i) the anticipated period of activity upon such works;
(ii) proposed and possible exploration techniques;
(iii) the extent to which exploration activities will, or are likely to, affect the environment inside and outside the affected land;
(iv) the proposed method and amount of vehicular access to and within the affected land with reference to any proposals to construct roads, landing strips or other access facilities;
(v) the maximum number of people likely to be on the affected land from time to time;
(vi) the proposed water, timber or other requirements to be obtained from the affected land; and
(vii) proposals for minimising the effect of the proposed exploration works on the affected land;
(viii) the estimated cost of exploration;
(ix) the estimated geological potential of the area;
(x) a proposal in relation to payments for exploration activities;
(xi) the term of the exploration period;
(xii) proposals for rehabilitation; and
(xiii) proposals for minimising social impact;
(e) a description, expressed as fully as practicable, of the various methods for the recovery of any minerals found as a result of the exploration;
(f) the name, position and qualifications of the person or persons, not exceeding 3 in number, who will represent the applicant at meetings convened under subsection 42(4) or, if any such person is unable so to represent the applicant, of any substitute authorised to represent the applicant.'

The land councils established under the ALRA are to represent the Aboriginal Traditional Owners in negotiations of the agreement. Section 42 of the Act sets out processes for consultation with the Traditional Owners to facilitate this representation effectively. Traditional Owners are to be consulted through meetings organised by the Land Council, and the Land Council can not consent to any grant until it is satisfied that the terms and conditions that have been agreed with the applicant are reasonable and the Traditional Owners 'understand the nature and purpose of the terms and conditions and, as a group, consent to them': s 42(6)(a).

The ALRA also sets out the process for negotiations with the applicant, defining a 'negotiation period', and contains provisions for the determination of the conditions for grant of a licence by an arbitration process when parties have not agreed.

The Act contains similar provisions for agreements relating to the grant of mining interests on Aboriginal Land. Land councils may also enter into these agreements over land that is subject to claim under the ALRA but has not yet been granted Aboriginal title.