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Leading Practice Mining Acts Review - Statutes Amendment Bill released

Sustainable use of mineral resources within the State's conservation network

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South Australia has an extensive network of conservation areas - approximately 21% of the terrestrial areas of the State are proclaimed as a reserve under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 or Wilderness Protection Act 1992; and 44% of South Australia’s waters are included within the State’s marine park network. Other conservation areas include the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, River Murray Protection area, heritage agreements for native vegetation, and the Arkaroola Protection Area.

Protected areas are important in providing core areas for the long-term conservation of biodiversity. They protect a range of biological, geological and heritage values.  Parks and reserves also encompass many areas of great importance to Aboriginal people, provide important areas for tourism and recreation activities, and protect many indigenous and non-indigenous heritage sites and places. 

The development of mineral and energy resources is of great importance for economic and regional development in South Australia and the government recognises the importance of balancing conservation and resource use objectives.  With a large percentage of the protected area system available for exploration and mining, there is a commitment to the sustainable use of resources within an overarching conservation framework.

The following provides an overview of different types of conservation areas within South Australia, and how they interact with State minerals and energy resources legislation.

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Reserves established under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 

The objectives of the National Parks and Wildlife Act relate to the establishment and management of reserves (including national parks, conservation parks, game reserves and recreation reserves) for public benefit and enjoyment; and conservation of wildlife in a natural environment. Section 43(2) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act enables the Governor, by proclamation, to declare that subject to any conditions specified, rights of entry, prospecting, exploration, or mining may be acquired and exercised in respect of land constituting a reserve or portion of a reserve (other than a Regional Reserve).

If a reserve is proclaimed with access for exploration and mining (known as joint proclamation), these rights are subject to any conditions specified within the proclamation. Although the exact wording of the proclamation differs from reserve to reserve, the majority of joint proclamations:

  • Allow for exploration and mining activities within the reserve
  • Require the approval of the Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy and the Minister for Sustainability, Environment Conservation for the exercise of rights that are to take place in relation to the reserve
  • Require that the party undertaking the activity give the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation three months’ notice of any drilling, excavation, vegetation clearance or the construction of any road or other structure

The National Parks and Wildlife Act also includes another reserve category, known as regional reserves.Regional reserves, by their very definition, permit exploration and mining. Section 43A(1) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act states that the relevant mining Minister must not grant an application for a mining tenement in relation to a regional reserve without first submitting the application to the Minister administering the National Parks and Wildlife Act and considering his/her views (Section 43A(3)).

Section 43A(2) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act states that the relevant mining Minister must not grant an application for a mining production tenement in relation to a regional reserve without the approval of the Minister administering the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

More information about National Parks South Australia

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Wilderness protection areas 

Wilderness Protected Areas are protected under the Wilderness Protection Act 1992 to provide for the protection of wilderness and the restoration of land to its condition before European colonisation. Exploration and mining are not permitted in these areas.

More information about Wildermess protection in South Australia 

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Arkaroola protection area

arkaroolaThe Arkaroola protection area was established under the Arkaroola Protection Act 2012 to provide for:

  • The protection of Arkaroola’s nationally and internationally recognised geological features
  • Its natural arid mountainous landscapes
  • Its significant cultural and biological values.

The Arkaroola protection area comprises most of the Arkaroola pastoral lease and includes a portion of the adjoining Mount Freeling Pastoral Lease. The area is approximately 590 km².

Mining operations or regulated activities are prohibited within the Arkaroola protection area.

The Arkaroola protection area is different to traditional protected areas. The land is not a government national park. The ownership and management of the land comprising the Arkaroola protection area remains in private hands. The Arkaroola Protection Act does however provide the legal protection of the significant natural, landscape and cultural features of the land.

More information about Arkaroola

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Vegetation heritage agreement areas 

Heritage agreements entered into between landowners and the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation are attached to the title of the land and provide protection to native vegetation on private land. These agreements are established under the Native Vegetation Act 1991, and are administered by the Native Vegetation Management Unit of the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.  Access for mineral and petroleum activities is not restricted on the basis of the land being under a heritage agreement.

These areas often contain a high diversity of flora and fauna including species of conservation significance. The presence of a vegetation heritage agreement on land can be confirmed by performing a title search. The conditions of the agreement (and location) can be obtained through ordering the relevant documents from the Lands Titles Office.  Further information on native vegetation heritage agreements is available from the DEWNR website.

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River Murray Act and Protection Areas 

The River Murray Act 2003 has provision for the protection and enhancement of the River Murray and related areas and ecosystems.

Within this Act, he Governor may, by regulation, designate areas as River Murray Protection Areas for the purposes of this or any other Act.

As with marine parks and the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, River Murray Protected Areas is classified as a specially protected area under the Mining Act and Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act, which therefore requires licence applications or any proposed mining operations or regulated activities that are to occur within or adjacent to a marine park to be referred to the Environment Minister and the Minister for the River Murray for concurrence.

Two protection areas have been designated under the River Murray Act 2003:

  •  River Murray Zone – buffered floodplain (approximately 1956 flood level plus 500 m from main channel)
  • Tributaries Zone – (tributaries plus floodplain, or approximately 500 m whichever is greater)

More information about managing natural resources on the River Murray 

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Marine parks 

The Marine Parks Act 2007 was proclaimed to provide the legislative base to protect South Australia’s marine environmentthrough the establishment of marine parks in South Australia. Under the Marine Parks Act, 19 marine parks have been created throughout South Australian waters.  A multiple use policy is applicable to these parks, although some areas are identified as high priority areas for conservation where invasive mining and petroleum activities are unlikely to be approved.   Each proposed activity will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and will be subject to concurrence of the relevant Ministers.

The Marine Parks Act allows for the establishment of four marine park zones with different levels of protection and use. These include general managed use zones, habitat protection zones, sanctuary zones and restricted use zones, and establish basic access arrangements (subject to approval) for mineral and energy exploration activities  The locations of these zones are outlined within each marine park management plan.

Marine parks are recognised as specially protected areas under both the Mining Act and Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act. As such, these Acts establish a referral mechanism to the Environment Minister for the granting of licences or any proposed mining operations or regulated activities that are to occur within or adjacent to a marine park.

To provide certainty to the mineral and petroleum exploration industry and other users, the Government developed a list of mining, petroleum and geothermal activities that are likely to be acceptable in each of the four zones. This information is available on the marine parks website.

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Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary

dolphinThe Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary Act 2005 was established to develop a sanctuary to protect the dolphin population of the Port Adelaide River estuary and Barker Inlet and its natural habitat and to provide for the protection and enhancement of the Port Adelaide River estuary and Barker Inlet.

Mineral and energy exploration and mining production activities are possible within the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary. Like marine parks, the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary is classified as a specially protected area under the Mining Act and Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act, which therefore requires licence applications or any proposed mining operations or regulated activities that are to occur within or adjacent to a marine park to be referred to the Environment Minister.

More information on Adelaide Mt Lofty ranges coast and marine dolphin sanctuary

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