Prospecting Licences

Prospecting licences for precious metals are issued by the Crown Estate Commissioners (CEC) and companies wishing to explore for precious metals should apply simultaneously to CEC and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) for licences. Once DETI issues its licence, CEC will normally issue a concurrent licence for a coterminous area. 

For all other minerals, except those listed In Schedule 1 of the 1969 Act, a prospecting licence issued by DETI only is required.

  • Prospecting licences are normally granted for an initial period of two years, and may provide for two further extensions of two years’ duration each.
  • Licensees are required to carry out an agreed scheme of prospecting and to report the results of their work programmes to the Department on an annual basis or more frequently.
  • A licence gives the licensee the exclusive right to explore over the whole licensed area.
  • A licence can be up to 250 square kilometres.
  • A licence does not give automatic access rights.  The licensee should seek the agreement of landowners before entering their property. Compensation is payable by the licensee to the landowner for any damage which may be caused during exploration.

Applying for Prospecting Licences

An application must be accompanied by two original 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland outline maps. The application area should be clearly delineated and the boundary should normally follow grid lines. The relevant fee and audited accounts of the applicant company for the three years prior to the making of the application (together with, if applicable, similar audited accounts from any parent company) should also be included. DETI will expect an applicant to provide a rationale for the proposed work programme showing an understanding of the geological information already available and to submit a phased and costed work programme. The company will be asked to supply evidence of suitable insurance which indemnifies DETI from any third party claims.

Applications take approximately four months to process. When considering any application for the issue of a licence, the Department must be satisfied that the applicant has the technical and financial resources to carry out the proposed exploration.

Under the provisions of the 1969 Act the Department is required to consult other Departments and public bodies concerning its intention to issue a licence. Also in accordance with the 1969 Act the Department is obliged to place notices in the Belfast Gazette and at least one local newspaper circulating in the area to provide an opportunity for the public, particularly the owners of the surface land within the application area, to make their views known.


Last Updated: 23rd February 2009