Words and terms can have very specific meanings in relation to mineral and petroleum exploration or production and may be new to you. This section explains some of the key terms you might come across when considering a mineral or petroleum proposal in your area or when negotiating a land access arrangement with an explorer.


Natural gas

Is combustible gas formed naturally in the earth and consisting typically of methane together with varying quantities of ethane, propane, butane, and other gases  used as a fuel.[i]


See also ‘Conventional gas’, ‘Unconventional gas’ and ‘Liquefied natural gas’.


NSW Farmers’ Association

Is Australia’s largest State farmer organisation representing the interests of its farmer members – ranging from broad acre, livestock, wool and grain producers, to more specialised producers in the horticulture, dairy, egg, poultry, pork, oyster and goat industries. See:


NSW Minerals Council

Is an industry organisation which represents minerals explorers and mining companies in New South Wales. See:

See also ‘Minerals Council of Australia’.


NSW Office of Water

See ‘DPI Water’


Office of Coal Seam Gas

The former Office of Coal Seam Gas was announced and established in February 2013, and its previous functions relating to titles are now undertaken by the Division of Resources and Energy. Its regulatory functions have largely moved to the EPA.

Opal Prospecting Area

See ‘Opal Prospecting Licence‘.


Opal Prospecting Licence

Mineral exploration for opals is called prospecting, which is conducted under an Opal Prospecting Licence or Mineral Claim. Opal Prospecting Licences are granted over much larger areas than those granted under mineral claims but are purely for prospecting and do not authorise mining. An Opal Prospecting Licence can only be granted over lands defined as an ‘Opal Prospecting Block’ within an area designated under the Mining Act 1992 as an ‘Opal Prospecting Area’. There are several Opal Prospecting Areas in the Lightning Ridge and White Cliffs Mineral Claims Districts. Between 50 and 100 Opal Prospecting Licences are processed by the NSW Government each year.[ii]



A surface mining method where a mineral or an ore is exposed by removing the overlying rock.



Rock or mineral material exposed on the Earth’s surface.



Waste rock material overlying a coal seam, also called spoil. It is removed and either dumped or used in reclaiming mined areas.



Partially decomposed vegetation from marshes and swamps, it is dark brown or black in colour.  First stage of the coalification process.



See ‘Petroleum Exploration Licence‘.



Describes the ability of a gas, like methane, or groundwater to pass through or be released from a fractured solid like coal.[iii] This term can also relate to groundwater permeability. 



A major coal forming geological period, about 250 million years ago225



A ‘joule’ is a unit of measure of energy, and a Petajoule is equal to 1015 joules.



Is any naturally occurring hydrocarbon that is found beneath the Earth’s surface. Coal Seam Gas is a form of petroleum, as is crude oil and other natural gases.


Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991

The legislation in NSW which regulates the petroleum (including coal seam gas) industry operating on land. Petroleum exploration and production titles are granted under this Act. Offshore petroleum titles to up to three nautical miles from the coast are issued under the Petroleum (Offshore) Act 1992. Offshore titles beyond three nautical miles from the coast are issued under federal legislation which is administered jointly by the NSW and federal governments.


Petroleum Assessment Lease (PAL)

Gives the licence holder an exclusive right to prospect for petroleum and to assess any petroleum deposit on the land in the lease. A Petroleum Assessment Lease is granted in 6 year terms and is designed to allow the leaseholder to retain their rights over an area where a significant mineral deposit has been found but is not commercially viable in the short term until further assessment is carried out.


Petroleum Exploration Licence (PEL)

Before exploring for petroleum in NSW, an explorer must first obtain a Petroleum Exploration Licence under the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991. An Exploration Licence gives the licence holder the exclusive right to explore for petroleum or for specific minerals or petroleum within a designated area, but does not permit mining, nor does it guarantee that a Mining or Production Lease will be granted. Only a very small percentage of land that is subject to Exploration Licences ever proceeds to a mine.


Petroleum Lease Application (PLA)

All petroleum exploration activity in NSW must be conducted on an exploration or production title. These titles give title holders exclusive rights to explore and extract petroleum. A Petroleum Lease Application is an application for a title made under the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991.


Petroleum Production Lease (PPL)

Gives the holder the exclusive right to extract petroleum over a specific area of land. In New South Wales, petroleum production leases are granted under the provisions of the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991. To be granted a petroleum production lease, applicants must demonstrate that there is an economically recoverable resource within the area of the proposed lease. They must also show that they have the financial and technical resources to carry out petroleum production in a responsible manner. A development consent under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 must also be granted before the coal seam gas production project can proceed. Petroleum Production Leases can be granted for up to 21 years.  


Petroleum Special Prospecting Authority (PSPA)

The holder of a Petroleum Special Prospecting Authority has the exclusive right to conduct speculative geological, geophysical or geochemical surveys or scientific investigations on the land under the PSPA. Initial term should not exceed 12 months and is determined by the Minister.


Pilot Well

Is a well for gas and water extraction, generally in close proximity to another for the assessment of field potential.236



Is part of a gas distribution network. A pipeline transports petroleum from over long distances, from the point of production to the point of storage prior to sale, for example. The construction, operation and maintenance of pipelines in NSW is regulated under the Pipelines Act 1967.


Pipelines Act 1967

The legislation in NSW which regulates the construction, operation and maintenance of pipelines in the State, and for purposes connected to the construction and operations of pipelines in the State.



See ‘Petajoule’.



See ‘Petroleum Lease Application‘.



See ‘petroleum Production Lease’.


Precious Stones

Precious stones are rare and costly gems such as diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires. See also ‘Semi Precious Stones’.


Produced water

Means groundwater that is necessarily or unavoidably brought to the surface of the earth, or moved underground in connection with exploring for, or producing coal seam gas.



Is a petroleum company which is authorised to produce petroleum in NSW for sale under a Petroleum Production Licence.



The extraction of petroleum under a Petroleum Production Licence to be sold commercially.



See ‘Petroleum Special Prospecting Authority‘.



An application for a Petroleum Special Prospecting Authority. See ‘Petroleum Special Prospecting Authority’.


Punch hole

A small diameter hole which is drilled to confirm the exact depth of an underground structure or seam.236


Radiative gases

These gases in the atmosphere allow the sun’s heat to pass through to Earth, but do not let the heat radiate from Earth and escape from the atmosphere.



A method of classifying coal based on the amounts of carbon and volatile matter it contains.  It signifies the coalification of the organic material.



The process of returning a mined land surface into productive use.



A resource which has been quantified by a verifiable process and has demonstrated commercial value.236



An unquantified body of material of potential value.


Reverse osmosis

Is the natural process that occurs when water flows spontaneously from a purer solution through a semi-permeable membrane into a more concentrated solution. Reverse osmosis is a process used to treat coal seam gas wastewater.



Is the price charged by the Crown (in this case the NSW Government) for the transfer of the right to extract a mineral resource. The price (royalty rate) is prescribed in legislation.


Run-of-Mine (ROM)

Mined ore of a size that can be processed without the need for further crushing.



Is an acronym for Soil and Land Information System. See:



Is a geological layer of ore also called a ‘bed’.


Secondary landholder

Is a person who has a registered interest in the land but does not have an exclusive right to possession of the land, for example mortgagees not in possession or easement holders.



Rock particles, such as sand and clay, produced by weathering.


Seismic test

An assessment process whereby the reflected vibrations from a series of shocks or vibrations on the surface are used to infer underground structures.


Semi-Precious Stones

Semi-precious stones are naturally occurring stones that include amethyst, aventurine, carnelian, garnet, opal and rose quartzes. See also ‘Precious Stones’.



See ‘State Environmental Planning Policy‘.


Shale Gas

Is natural gas formed as a result of being trapped within shale formations.


Shale Oil

Also known as kerogen oil or oil-shale oil, is an unconventional oil produced from oil shale by pyrolysis, hydrogenation, or thermal dissolution. These processes convert the organic matter within the rock (kerogen) into synthetic oil and gas. The resulting oil can be used immediately as a fuel or upgraded to meet refinery feedstock specifications by adding hydrogen and removing impurities such as sulphur and nitrogen. The refined products can be used for the same purposes as those derived from crude oil.Error! Bookmark not defined.



A rotating cutting device used in underground coal mining. 

Significant Improvement

Without your agreement, mineral exploration can’t occur on your land on any ‘significant improvement’[v] which means any substantial building, dam, reservoir, contour bank, graded bank, levee, water disposal area, soil conservation work, or other valuable work or structure[vi].


Without your agreement Petroleum exploration can’t occur on your land on any improvement (being a substantial building, dam, reservoir, contour bank, graded bank, levee, water disposal area, soil conservation work, or other valuable work or structure)[vii].


Social licence

A social licence for a mining or petroleum proposal is said to exist when the community on which the proposal would impact are supportive of the proposal. A social licence is not a formal licence like those granted by the government but rather is a measure of community support.


State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP)

Is an environmental planning instrument that sets out the NSW Government’s development rules for the whole State, a particular part of the State, or in relation to particular industries in the State.


State Significant Development (SSD)

Is a category of development where the development is considered of particular importance to NSW due to its size, impacts or economic value. A range of development types such as mines and manufacturing plants as well as warehouses, waste, energy, tourist, education and hospital facilities are considered to be State Significant Developments. Some projects may also be considered State Significant Developments because they are located in precincts regarded as important by the NSW Government. These include Sydney Olympic Park and Barangaroo.


State Significant Infrastructure

Refers to infrastructure developments which are of major importance to NSW or which would cross multiple local government areas. In relation to coal seam gas development, pipelines are most likely to be considered State Significant Infrastructure developments. In relation to mining, State Significant Infrastructure developments might include port facilities or railways.


Steaming coal

All non-metallurgical coal See also Thermal Coal.


Strategic Agricultural Land

Is defined by the NSW Government as highly productive land that has unique natural resource characteristics (such as soil quality and reliable water access) or socio-economic value (such as high productivity, infrastructure availability and access to markets). There are two categories of Strategic Agricultural Land in NSW: Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land – based on the inherent qualities of the land; and Critical industry clusters – based on the land’s importance to a highly significant and clustered industry such as wine making and horse breeding.


Strategic Regional Land Use Plan

Strategic regional land use plans are one component of the Government’s broader Strategic Regional Land Use Policy which comprises multiple initiatives being staged over time to address land use conflict in regional areas, particularly focused on managing issues associated with coal mining and coal seam gas activity.


To date there are only two Strategic Regional Land Use Plans released however elements of the Strategic Land Use Policy are being incorporated into regional plans.

Strategic Regional Land Use Policy package

A range of measures announced by the NSW Government in September 2012 which aimed to protect strategic agricultural land and water resources, and create jobs and investment for regional communities by providing certainty for landholders and mining companies. The policy includes measures that work together to identify, map and protect the State’s most valuable agricultural land and underground water resources.


Sub-bituminous coal

A lower grade coal which ranges from lignite to bituminous coal and is used primarily for power generation.

Surat Basin

Is a geological basin in eastern Australia. It is part of the Great Artesian Basin drainage basin. It extends across an area of 270,000 square kilometres and the southern third of the basin occupies a large part of northern New South Wales, the remainder is in Queensland. Rich deposits of coal seam gas have been identified in the Surat Basin.


[i]     Macquarie Dictionary.

[ii]    NSW Government Opal prospecting (NSW Trade and Investment Division of Resources and Energy).

[iii]    Westside Corporation Glossary.

[iv]    NSW Government Exploration (NSW Trade and Investment Division of Resources and Energy).

[v]     Mining Act 1992 (NSW) s 31(1)(c).

[vi]    Mining Act 1992 (NSW) (definition of ‘Significant improvement’).

[vii]   Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 (NSW) s 72(1)(c).