Fossicking policy

Fossicking involves disturbing soil, rocks and vegetation to find and remove minerals, gemstones and historical objects. It is generally not permitted in parks.

Reflections in Grove Creek, Abercrombie Karst Conservation Reserve

This policy identifies the limited opportunities for fossicking in parks, and explains how future opportunities will be assessed.

Policy

Is fossicking allowed in parks?

  1. Fossicking is generally not permitted in parks because it can pose unacceptable risks to natural and cultural heritage. Under the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009 it is an offence to ‘...interfere with, dig up, cut up, collect or remove for any purpose any soil, sand, gravel, fossil, clay, rock, ochre, mineral...’, or to ‘dam, divert or pollute the water in any waters or water tank in a park’ without consent. This means fossicking is prohibited without consent, which can be provided in a plan of management for a park or, in the absence of a plan of management, in writing by a National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) branch director.

  2. Fossicking is currently permitted in two parks through plans of management:
    • Abercrombie Karst Conservation Reserve (Grove Creek part only)
    • Torrington State Conservation Area (throughout the park).
  3. Fossicking in other areas will only be considered if there is no plan of management and it does not pose unacceptable risks to park values (see paragraph 10).

  4. Fossicking in other areas will be considered only if there is an appropriate level of environmental assessment and it is consistent with:
  5. Consent to fossick may be considered, subject to the relevant plan of management, in the following reserve categories:
    • national parks
    • state conservation areas
    • regional parks
    • land acquired but not reserved under Part 11 of the NPW Act.
  6. Consent to fossick will not be considered for
    • nature reserves
    • historic sites
    • Aboriginal areas or Aboriginal places
    • karst conservation reserves, (except as already permitted in the Grove Creek area of Abercrombie Karst Conservation Reserve)
    • wilderness areas.

    because it is not consistent with the management principles for these park categories under the NPW Act, or the management principles for wilderness under the Wilderness Act 1987.

7. Any additional opportunities for fossicking in parks are best considered while plans of management are being prepared, when all recreational activities, park values and community consultation can be considered.

8. If a plan of management is silent, fossicking is prohibited. The plan would need to be amended before fossicking is permitted.

9. If there is no plan of management, NPWS may consider granting consent for fossicking until a plan is in place, if there is an appropriate level of environmental assessment (see paragraph 11).

10. To enable consideration of additional fossicking opportunities when a new park is created or a new plan of management is developed, NPWS will notify the NSW and ACT Prospectors and Fossickers Association when it acquires lands for reservation under the NPW Act, or when it starts to develop a new plan.

11. NPWS will only consider granting consent to fossick if the activity does not pose unacceptable risks to visitor safety or to park values including:

  • native plants and animals, particularly threatened ones and their habitat
  • Aboriginal cultural heritage
  • historic heritage
  • attributes which contribute to the outstanding universal value of a World Heritage property (that is, World Heritage values)
  • the ecological character of a Ramsar wetland
  • wilderness
  • catchment integrity and water quality of wild rivers, aquatic reserves and drinking water supplies.

12. Under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, activities with the potential to impact on reserve values require an environmental assessment. The appropriate level of assessment will be determined on a case by case basis. Most proposed fossicking will require a conservation risk assessment, which is a low level of environmental assessment. For proposed fossicking that is likely to have a significant impact, a review of environmental factors may be required. To make this easier, a generic conservation risk assessment or a review of environmental factors can be provided by the local NPWS office to reduce complexity, time and resources.

15. Only detecting, panning and hand sluicing activities (as defined in this policy) will be considered.

16. Equipment must be handheld and manually operated. (Electronic handheld metal detectors are allowed.) You must not use any equipment other than handheld implements. These techniques and equipment are not allowed:

  • mechanical sluicing
  • power-operated equipment used to disturb the ground surface, excavate or process material
  • explosives.

17. You must not damage or remove any bushrock.

18. You should follow the minimal impact guidelines in the Mining Regulation 2016 and NSW Industry and Investment's Fossicking: A guide to fossicking in NSW.

19. Under the consent to fossick you may be permitted to remove soil, minerals, gemstones or rock. The consent must identify the substance/s that may be removed.

20. However, you may not damage or remove items of Aboriginal or historic heritage significance, including fossils. Removing heritage items from parks is an offence under the NPW Act.

21. Even where the consent permits you to remove a substance, you may not remove more than the prescribed amount of material from any land during any single period of 48 hours. Prescribed amounts are detailed in clause 12 of the Mining Regulation 2016.

22. Consent may include terms and conditions, for example, a requirement to remove rubbish or various objects left in the park as part of a one-off collaborative event involving park staff or local historians.

Scope and application

This policy applies to lands acquired under Part 11 or reserved under Part 4 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. This policy does not apply to lands reserved under Part 4A of the Act unless the Board of Management for those lands has adopted it.

Objectives

This policy aims to:

  • guide the management of the limited fossicking opportunities in parks
  • guide the assessment of any proposed new fossicking opportunities in parks in the development of plans of management.

Definitions

Appropriate level of environmental impact assessment – these levels are detailed in OEH’s Environmental Impact Assessment – REFs, CRAs and Related Guidelines (internal document available upon request).

Bushrock means natural surface deposits of rock from rock outcrops or from areas of native vegetation. Bushrock may be loose rocks on rock surfaces or on the soil surface, or may have been removed from rock outcrops by excavation or blasting.

Fossicking means the small-scale search for, and collection of, minerals, gemstones or mineral-bearing material from the surface (or by digging from the surface) with hand-held implements. This activity may only be undertaken for recreational, tourist or educational purposes. (Fossicking: A guide to fossicking in NSW)

There are four types of fossicking:

  • detecting is the use of electronic hand-held metal detectors and the small-scale excavation of the ground (to a depth of 0.5 metres) to locate minerals such as gold.
  • panning is the use of handheld pans in fluvial locations and the small-scale excavation of river banks and beds to find minerals such as gold and gems such as sapphires.
  • hand sluicing is the use of hand-operated sluices in fluvial locations and the small-scale excavation of river banks and beds to find minerals (such as gold) and gems (such as sapphires). Generally, more material can be processed using a sluice than with a pan, resulting in more material being excavated.
  • mechanical sluicing is the use of mechanical sluices in fluvial locations and the small-scale excavation of river banks and beds to locate minerals such as gold and gems such as sapphires. Generally, a significant amount of material can be processed using a mechanical sluice, resulting in significant amounts of material being excavated. This amounts to a greater risk of harm and is therefore prohibited in all NPWS parks.

Fossicking District means an area gazetted under the Mining Act 1992 in which fossickers don’t need to obtain the consent of exploration-licence holders to be able to fossick. However, fossickers are still required to obtain permission from landholders including NPWS (section 12 of the Mining Act 1992). Details of fossicking districts can be obtained from NSW Resources and Energy. The districts can be displayed by a web-based service, MinView.

Park means land reserved under Part 4 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act), including a national park, nature reserve, historic site, Aboriginal area, state conservation area, karst conservation reserve or regional park, or any land acquired by the Minister under Part 11 of the NPW Act, or zones 1-3 of a community conservation area established by the Brigalow and Nandewar Community Conservation Area Act 2005.

Plan of management (PoM) means a plan of management for a park prepared under Part 5 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Prescribed amount has the same meaning as in the Mining Regulation 2016.

Accountabilities

Consent to fossick can be granted by a National Parks and Wildlife Service branch director.