Fossicking is a regulated activity in Queensland and requires a fossicking licence.
This licence allows you to search for and collect fossicking materials for recreational, tourist and educational purposes only.
Licences are not required at tourist mines and similar sites that charge a fee for entry. You also don’t need a fossicking licence to hunt for treasure or lost items using a metal detector. You should check with the local council for any rules about accessing public beaches and other areas for this purpose.
This guide explains what tools you are allowed to use and where you can fossick. It also explains your responsibilities under fossicking legislation in regards to safety, hygiene and behaviour.
If you have any questions about fossicking, contact the local mining office.
You can receive an on-the-spot fine or be prosecuted if you breach the provisions of your fossicking licence.
Stay safe while fossicking by observing the following principles.
Fossicking is not permitted in national parks, conservation parks, wildlife reserves, state forests and state timber reserves.
Specified fossicking areas have been created to allow easy access for fossicking. In these areas you don’t need to obtain special permission from the landowner.
These areas include:
Find out more about specified fossicking land:
A boundary watercourse does not require permission to enter. However adjoining owners to a boundary watercourse may have rights over the land to take water or trespass rights. You should contact them for permission before fossicking.
If a watercourse is part of another land tenure, for example a land lease or freehold lot, you’ll need the landholder’s permission.
Also note that additional rules and responsibilities apply when fossicking in watercourses.
You will generally need the landholder’s written consent before fossicking on any land that isn’t specified fossicking land. Table 1 below shows some common land tenures and who to contact for permission. The next section explains how to find information about land tenure and landholders.
If the land is unoccupied (for example unallocated state land), you don’t need permission to fossick unless:
If in doubt about the tenure of the land, contact the local mining registrar.
Once you have the land parcel’s details (e.g. lot on plan number), you can obtain the landholder’s details by requesting a current title search.
The Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations has contact details for native title bodies.
Who to contact
State land leases, licences and permits to occupy, e.g.
Leaseholder, permit holder or licence holder
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander land
Trustee or leaseholder
National parks, conservation parks, wildlife reserves, state forests and state timber reserves
Fossicking not permitted
Department of Transport and Main Roads
Reserves in the Wet Tropics area
Permission not required for collection. No digging allowed.
If road is a stock route, contact local council
The Fossicking Act 1994 and associated regulations contain requirements for fossickers to maintain safety, hygiene and a high standard of behaviour during their visits.
Landholders should contact the local mining registrar if unacceptable activities occur.
Infringement notices (on-the-spot fines) and prosecutions may be used to enforce the provisions of the legislation. Breaches may also result in cancellation of licences.
These responsibilities apply to all fossicking areas.
When fossicking, you must not:
On leaving a site:
Within watercourses, you must not:
On leaving, refill all excavations and place excess material so as to minimise disturbance to the channel and significant streamflows.
Within designated fossicking lands and areas you must not:
On leaving a site, you must make all excavations safe for future fossickers, stock and landholders if necessary, as instructed by the authorised officers.
Fossickers must comply with any special conditions of access.
Your fossicking licence allows you to search for and collect fossicking materials using hand tools and for recreational, tourist and educational purposes only.
Hand tools such as picks, shovels, hammers, sieves, shakers, electronic detectors (metal detectors) and other similar tools can be used.
No machinery is permitted. This includes water sluices with electronic pumps and dredges of any kind.
You can collect from the surface or by digging, but you are not permitted to dig below 2m of the natural ground surface of land or below 0.5m in streams. Overhangs and tunnels are not allowed.
On road reserves, no digging is permitted but collection from existing exposures is allowed.
You can collect gemstones, ornamental stones, mineral specimens, alluvial gold (including nuggets) and some fossil specimens, but not meteorites and fossils of vertebrate animals.
You don’t need a fossicking licence to search for ‘treasure’ such as lost jewellery and coins on a beach.
You can sell the occasional ‘lucky find’ of a gemstone or sell and trade to hobbyists or through fairs and exhibitions. However, repeated removal for sale through shops or businesses, or as part of making a living, is considered commercial, and requires tenure under the Mineral Resources Act 1989.
Royalties are payable on fossicking materials that are the property of the Crown, but threshold exemptions of $100,000 mean that generally most fossickers are not liable.
Fossicking rules and responsibilities, 10 Feb 2021, [https://www.qld.gov.au/recreation/activities/areas-facilities/fossicking/rules]
This document is uncontrolled when printed. Before using the information in this document you should verify the current content on https://www.qld.gov.au/recreation/activities/areas-facilities/fossicking/rules.