Crown Minerals Act 1991

Last updated: 10 December 2023

The Crown Minerals Act of 1991 promotes prospecting, exploration, and mining of Crown-owned minerals in New Zealand by providing for the efficient allocation of rights, the effective management and regulation of those rights, and a fair financial return to the Crown.  

The Act establishes that the ownership by the Crown of all petroleum, gold, silver, and uranium, in addition to all minerals in the offshore Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Extended Continental Shelf (ECS) (Section 10). Other minerals may be privately or state-owned; mineral ownership is recorded by the office of the Registrar-General of Land and does not necessarily follow land ownership (Section 86).

The Act grants the relevant Minister with the authority to establish minerals programmes and accompanying regulation for different minerals that are consistent with the regulations of the Act. It also establishes guidelines and conditions for the consideration of applications, granting of permits, and changes in control of or interest in a permit. Section 42 grants the Minister the authority to require a survey of permitted land at any time. 

Permit holders to keep detail records and reports regarding all prospecting, exploration, decommissioning, and post-decommissioning activities. Disclosure and publication of mineral resources and mineral production may be made at the discretion of the chief executive (Section 90).

The 2021 Crown Minerals (Decommissioning and Other Matters) Amendment Act obliges petroleum exploration and mining permit holders to carry decommissioning activities according to relevant environmental law and standards within set timeframes, and to record and report decommissioning plans, costs, and completion. At a minimum, the permit holder must remove petroleum infrastructure, plug and abandon wells, and undertake post-production site restoration. The Minister may exempt permit holders from part or all of the decommissioning requirements where they consider it appropriate (Section 89). 

In 2022, the government proposed amendments to the Act to align the legal framework its climate commitments by shifting away from the active promotion of mining and toward a more environmentally conscious management of resources. Under these changes, the Minister must assess that a permit applicant is highly likely to comply with relevant obligations with respect to decommissioning and environmental standards. The proposed amendments would also strengthen the engagement between mining permit holders and indigenous Māori communities known as iwi and hapū (Section 33). Section 33 of the Act obliges permit holders to provide the Minister with an annual report of the holder’s engagement with affected iwi and hapū; the amendments establish minimum content requirements for these reports and require the holders to allow iwi and hapū stakeholders to review and comment before submission. 

Want to know more about this policy ? Learn more