Petroleum Exploration - Northern Territory Government

Petroleum Act
Petroleum Exploration
Rights and Obligations of Landowners and Title Holders
This document briefly outlines the rights and obligations of both the landowner and the petroleum
title holder / explorer.
The Petroleum Act (the Act) is administered by the Energy Directorate of the Department of Mines
and Energy who are responsible to the Minister for Mines and Energy.
Exploration activity is regulated under the Petroleum Act, Petroleum Regulations and the Schedule
of Onshore Petroleum Exploration and Production Requirements 2012.
An exploration permit or licence (Petroleum title) may be granted in relation to any land within the
Territory (s11) and before access to land is gained, the explorer must have granted tenure.
A person making an application for title then activity must meet necessary criteria outlined in the
Act and regulations, including such things as complying with environmental care and rehabilitation
requirements as required under the Act.
All activity must be approved by the Department of Mines and Energy before activity commences;
all petroleum activities are also assessed under the Environmental Assessment Act by the
Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (NTEPA).
Grant of tenure generally results after an agreement between the Exploration Company and
Traditional Owners under the relevant Commonwealth Acts; which may include agreements to
enter land. However, in all cases under the Act you must consult with the land owner before
entering any land and specifically before considering exploration activities.
Thorough communications and consultations which are required under the Act before any
approvals for activity can be provided. A “contract” or “access agreement” that is arranged between
the Company and the land owner is a private commercial agreement, which sits outside the Act
and is not enforceable under the Act.
Rights and Obligations of Land Owner
There is a general expectation that explorers will conduct themselves in a professional manner and
the Department strongly encourages consultation between the title holder and the landowner to
ensure a harmonious relationship between the parties. The exploration company must conduct
their operations and activities in such a way as to not interfere with the lawful rights or activities of
the land owner.
Companies will often contact land owners very early after they obtain granted title and in most
cases, agreement on access is negotiated between the parties.
There is no requirement for an explorer to obtain consent to enter land for the purpose of
conducting authorised activities. However, the explorer must give notice to the owner of land
before commencing activity, and to any occupier of the land who has a registered interest in that
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Petroleum Exploration – Rights and Obligations of Landowners and Title Holders
Notification details should include:
The name and contact details of the title owner/operator;
Name and contact details of the person who will be in charge of conducting the authorised
The nature of the activity;
The proposed exploration commencement date and duration of the exploration operations;
A copy of Section 81 of the Act.
To assist in establishing and developing relationships between the parties, the explorer may also
request the landowner to provide information in relation to:
Suitable campsite/s;
Landowners planned work program;
Permission for the use of water;
Details of any problem weeds, noxious plants and hazardous locations; and
Requirement for minimising disturbance to stock.
Interference with Title Holder’s Activities or Rights
A person must not interfere with authorised activities being conducted under a petroleum title or
the rights of the holder of a petroleum title.
A land owner is entitled to compensation under section 81 and 82 of the Act for;
Deprivation of use or enjoyment of the land, including improvements on the land
Damage, caused by the exploration company to the land or improvements on the land.
Further, if any land over which a right to construct a road or carry out other works for access to an
exploration permit or license area is diminished in value as a result of that access, the landowner is
entitled to compensation from the exploration company for the loss or damage in respect of the
owner’s and occupier’s interest in the land.
Disputes relevant to compensation will be administered by the Northern Territory Civil and
Administrative Tribunal established by the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act.
A claim for compensation must be made within three (3) years of the occurrence of the relevant
damage, unless the Tribunal allows further time.
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Petroleum Exploration – Rights and Obligations of Landowners and Title Holders
Rights of Title Holder
The holder of a petroleum title has the right to:
Occupy land for the purpose of exploring for petroleum in the title area (s29)
Access the title area by the shortest practical route and construct a road or carry out other
works to ensure access to the title area. (s65)
May enter land with such machinery, equipment and workmen as is necessary to mark out and
construct the road (s65)
Use the water resources of the title area for his domestic use and for any purposes in
connection with the approved technical works program and other exploration (s29), but must
not use water artificially conserved by the landowner without consent.
Obligations of Title Holder
On entering the land the explorer should make all reasonable attempts to again contact the
landowner or occupier of the land prior to commencing authorised activities.
Fact sheets on petroleum exploration activities and procedures which explorers must follow can be
found at:
A person shall not explore for, or engage in operations for the recovery of petroleum unless
that person does so under and in accordance with a petroleum title. (s105)
Conduct his operations and activities in relation to the title in such a way as not to interfere with
the lawful rights or activities of any other person.
Conduct all operations in relation to the title with reasonable diligence and in accordance with
good oil field practices, of the approved work program.
Carry out the technical works program in such a way as to cause as little disturbance as
Not interfere with existing roads, railways, telephone lines, power lines and cables, water
pipelines, dams, reservoirs or energy pipelines, tailing pipelines, storage containers.
Comply with lawful directions in relation to the protection of the environment.
After the activities have been completed, the exploration company must rehabilitate the
affected area. The Government holds a rehabilitation security against the activity which will not
be released until satisfied that the appropriate levels of rehabilitation have been proven to be a
positive effect on the land.
Not erect a permanent structure or facility unless approved.
Comply with Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act and other Acts.
No title holder or operator may carry out operations upon land that is:
within 50 metres of land used as a residence, yard, garden, orchard or cultivated field;
within 200 metres of a cemetery;
within 200 metres of any artificial accumulation of water or outlet.
Without the express written approval of the landowner, registered native title body corporate or
Board of Trustees of a cemetery, as the case maybe.
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Petroleum Exploration – Rights and Obligations of Landowners and Title Holders
The Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association Inc. has developed access guidelines which you
may wish to consider. However, it is up to the individual parties to seek relevant legal advice, as
these agreements are not a requirement under the Act and will not be adjudicated by the
Department should there be any breaches of the agreement.
Other Reference Links
Petroleum Legislation
Schedule of Onshore Petroleum Exploration and Production Requirements 2012
Unconventional Oil and Gas
The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal
Contact Information
Department of Mines and Energy – Energy Directorate
Address: 4th Floor Centrepoint Building, 48-50 Smith Street, DARWIN NT 0800
Post Address: GPO Box 4550, DARWIN NT 0801
Phone: 08 8999 5263
Email: [email protected]
Last Modified: 16 February 2016
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