PMAT’s Policy on Prospecting and Fossicking in Tasmania

Prospecting and fossicking are traditional, fun and heritage activities that often involve the whole family. Prospecting in the modern sense goes back to the arrival of Europeans in Tasmania, and has a continuous, uninterrupted history of at least 170 years. Even before this, for thousands of years Indigenous Tasmanians collected minerals such as ochre, and traded them widely across the island.

People have a fundamental right to fossick and prospect  in Tasmania.

While most people choose to fossick and prospect strictly as a hobby, we have an uninterrupted history of small-scale prospectors selling materials to fund their prospecting, or even make a living. There must be a legal framework for prospectors and fossickers to sell items if they want to, without the virtually impossible barrier of obtaining a mining lease. Current Tasmanian mining law makes no allowance between a full-blown mining lease and a strictly hobby activity. Casual, mobile prospecting and fossicking is not suited to a single, definable piece of ground, and the fees and paperwork involved put this out of reach for the majority.

Prospecting is an activity whereby mineral exploration and collecting is carried out using only hand tools. However, methods for processing the wash such as small river sluices, cradles and small highbankers should be allowed, as they are interstate. These are methods for processing samples of wash already extracted from the ground using hand tools. There is no restriction on how samples are processed off-site if taken home or sent for assay in a laboratory, and there should be no restriction on how they are processed on site.

Reserves that allow mining, such as Conservation Areas and Nature Recreation Areas, are currently forbidden to prospectors. At the same time, full-scale mining is allowed in these areas. This is discriminatory and unnecessarily restrictive: No matter the strictness of environmental management conditions, a single commercial mining operation will leave more permanent environmental damage on the site than all the prospectors and fossickers in Tasmania might be able to inflict on that ground. All the land in Tasmania which is available to commercial mining must also be available for fossicking and prospecting.

There is a requirement that prospectors and fossickers obtain permission from Exploration Licence (EL) holders before accessing a tenement. The owner of a prospecting licence risks losing their licence if they prospect without written permission. At the same time, and despite a requirement that tenement holders provide written reasons for refusal, there is NO PENALTY for a tenement holder to just ignore requests from prospectors.

PMAT recognises that liaising with tenement holders is normally beneficial for both sides, and strongly encourages prospectors and fossickers to seek permission before working inside exploration licences. However, an exploration licence is not a lease on the land, and casual prospectors should not be required to obtain written permission from tenement holders before they can access an area. Tenement holders must be deemed to grant permission if no response to a request is forthcoming within a reasonable amount of time (e.g. 60 days).

More and more parts of the State are becoming reserved and inaccessible to prospectors and fossickers, including well known mineral fields. Some prospecting and fossicking activities, such as metal detecting, are far less damaging to the environment than allowable tourism ventures. PMAT will work to open up traditional mineral fields to low impact forms of fossicking and prospecting.


To generally promote prospecting, fossicking, and small-scale mining in Tasmania.
To promote awareness of the traditional right to undertake these activities.
To achieve Government and regulatory authority recognition of the importance of these activities to the State economy.

Basic objectives

To disseminate information about prospecting, fossicking, and small scale mining, including rights, rules and opportunities.
To provide a platform for the sharing of information about these activities.
To provide a platform for organising field trips and other activities related to prospecting, fossicking, and small scale mining.
To liaise with stakeholders such as regulatory authorities and tenement holders so as to further the opportunities to fossick, prospect and small-scale-mine in Tasmania.
To lobby Government and regulatory authorities in order to increase awareness of issues related to prospecting, fossicking, and small scale mining, and and achieve outcomes beneficial to prospectors, fossickers and small-scale miners.


You can find a copy of PMAT’s Constitution here.