Instructions, Definitions, and General Guidance for Submitting Exploration Plans

What is the Exploration Plan submission process?

The following step by step process describes how to submit an exploration plan for review by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.

The early exploration proponent (“proponent”) should be aware that once an exploration plan becomes effective it does not exempt them from following and complying with other existing laws and regulatory requirements. Examples of approvals which may be needed are permits to take water (Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC)), road construction permits (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF)), and Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) approvals related to fish habitat. For a more comprehensive but not complete list see Appendix 5.

Should a subsequent approval require a change in the activities or project please contact a Mineral Exploration and Development Consultant for advice as to implications to your exploration plan.  The exploration plan form and forms related to the plan submission process are available from the Central Forms Repository.

Consultation with Aboriginal Communities

Pursuant to the Mining Act, its regulations, and the Crown’s duty to consult, MNDM notifies Aboriginal communities which may exercise Aboriginal or treaty rights in the area of the proposed early exploration activities.  MNDM identifies these communities based on our current understanding, which continues to develop over time.

Aboriginal communities will be notified of exploration plans that have been submitted.  Any comments they may have with respect to potential adverse effects of proposed activities on their Aboriginal or treaty rights will be provided to MNDM. Depending on comments received, MNDM may require proponent’s direct participation in the consultation process to further explain the proposed activities or to discuss and consider adjustments proponents may be willing to make to mitigate potential adverse effects identified, if any. MNDM will provide specific direction in this regard on a case-by-case basis, as necessary.

Proponents of exploration and development activities may also benefit from developing their own relationships with Aboriginal communities, which MNDM encourages.  Proponents who wish to contact Aboriginal communities which may be affected by proposed exploration activities in advance of submitting an exploration plan should contact MNDM for guidance on which communities, if any, to contact. 

Any discussions that proponents have directly with Aboriginal communities, whether those discussions are pursuant to direction received from MNDM or for their own business reasons, can help to inform MNDM’s decisions.  Where such discussions have occurred, proponents may be asked to provide addition information and details

Further information about MNDM’s approach to Aboriginal consultation can be found in our policy: Consultation and Arrangements with Aboriginal Communities at Early Exploration.

Step 1: Pre-Submission Requirements

  • Ensure that the person that will be the Qualified Supervisor for the project has completed the required Mining Act Awareness Program .  When filling out the forms you will need the Mining Act Awareness Program Number (MAAP number).
  • If surface rights owners (SRO’s) exist for the project then fill out the Notice of Intent to Submit an Exploration Plan and send a copy of the draft exploration plan to the SRO.  SRO’s can be identified by performing a title search at the Land registry office closest to the project area.
  • The Proponent should keep a record of SRO(’s) they have contacted, including information supplied, when it was supplied, and how it was supplied. The proponent should be prepared to provide this information to MNDM upon request.
  • If the person submitting the exploration plan is not the claim holder and is an agent they will need an agent letter from the claim holder (see Appendix 4 for an example of agent letter for an exploration plan).
  • If the claim holder is a corporation the person submitting the exploration plan must be able to sign for the corporation or as an agent.

Step 2: Completing the “Exploration Plan Form”

  • Obtain an Exploration Plan form.
  • Check yes or no if the proposed early exploration area within the project area is located within the boundaries of an existing closure plan.
  • Complete the exploration plan form ensuring all required information (claim list attachment, property and regional maps, SRO’s, and agent letters) is provided.  All claims, leases or licenses of occupation included in the plan application must be contiguous.
  • If there are too many claims or leases to list on the form attach a separate claim list instead of identifying claim or lease numbers in Section B and Section F of the form. 
  • Fill out both the County/District/Region (required) and the Township/BMA Area/Municipality fields in Section A, if applicable. Go to a list of Counties, Regions and/or Districts in Ontario if you are not sure what County, District, or Region you are in.  A map of districts in northern Ontario is also available as well as a map of counties in southern Ontario.
  • Make sure the exploration plan form is signed and dated by either the claim holder, officer of the corporation, or the agent.


  1. Prepare maps (Appendix 2) showing activities in detail in advance of filling out the exploration plan form.
  2. When planning an exploration program you may wish to consider adding 2 or 3 additional sites or activities proposed to give your program some flexibility.

Step 3: Submit the Completed “Exploration Plan Form”

  • Exploration plan forms can be submitted by email to, or hard copy by fax, mail, or by person (refer to Questions and Submitting an Electronic or Paper Copy of an Exploration Plan Form).
  • Include all applicable attachments when submitting the documents to MNDM.
  • To assist in the timely review of the exploration plan form, the proponent should start working on the Exploration Plan form well ahead of the proposed start date of the project.
  • Print, save or email yourself a copy of the submitted pdf document;
  • The exploration plan form must be detailed enough to ensure that ministry staff can readily determine what activity is proposed, where it is proposed to take place, and when it will be undertaken.
  • The accompanying maps must contain enough detail to ensure ministry staff and Aboriginal communities can locate the area and determine where the activities could occur to ensure appropriate consultation. Please see Appendix 2 which outlines plan map requirements. Examples of maps are provided in Appendix 4.
  • Incomplete exploration plan forms may be returned to the claim holder or the plan may not be circulated.  A sample completed exploration plan form is provided in Appendix 4.  Common issues with exploration plan forms include:
    • Missing agent letter or authorizations to sign for other claim holders.
    • Maps without enough sufficient detailed information such as project locations, activity(ies) locations, scale bars or north arrows.
    • Maps not demonstrating a good regional location.
    • Missing the Qualified Supervisor’s Mining Act Awareness Program number.
    • Difference between claims listed in the exploration plan form and those shown on the Project map.
    • Missing signatures (claim holder’s or agent’s)

Step 4: MNDM Review, Aboriginal Consultation

  • MNDM will review the exploration plan for completeness.
  • MNDM will circulate the exploration plan to potentially affected Aboriginal communities requesting their comments with regard to the potential of the proposed activities to adversely affect their Aboriginal or treaty rights. MNDM will consider comments received, if any, and work with proponents to respond. Depending on comments received MNDM may also require proponents’ direct participation in the consultation process to further explain the proposed activities or to discuss and consider adjustments proponents may be willing to make to mitigate potential adverse effects identified, if any.  MNDM will provide specific direction in this regard on a case-by-case basis, if necessary.
  • Any comments received from surface rights owners will be considered, and where appropriate the proponent may be asked to consider such comments.
  • The usual time from circulation of the exploration plan to when it becomes effective is 30 days.
  • Early exploration proponents may withdraw or make adjustments to a submitted exploration plan at any time within 30 days after the circulation date.  This action may be in response to comments received from an Aboriginal community or surface rights owner.
  • In certain circumstances an exploration plan may be required to undergo the exploration permit application process in which case the proponent will be contacted by the Ministry.
  • Please note exploration plan activities are subject to all other applicable regulations (refer to Appendix 5 for examples).

Step 5: Proceed with Exploration Plan Activities

  • The proponent can proceed with the exploration plan activities thirty days after the circulation date of the plan, unless the claim holder has been notified that the Exploration Permit process must be followed.
  • All exploration plans and permits are posted on the MNDM website. Download the Exploration Plans & Permits Table.

Step 6: Commencing Exploration Plan Activities and Monitoring

  • Once the exploration plan is effective, the proponent may undertake the work in adherence with the prescribed requirements as set out in Ontario Regulation 308/12 under the Mining Act including the Provincial Standards for Early Exploration.
  • An exploration plan will be effective for a period of two years.
  • Ministry staff may inspect the site during the exploration plan activities, before commencement of the activities, or following completion of the activities, to ensure compliance with the exploration plan and associated regulations.
  • Doing exploration plan activities without an exploration plan in effect is an offence under the Mining Act, which upon conviction, may result in a stop work order, fines and/or imprisonment.


  1. Ongoing communications with Aboriginal communities and/or SRO’s regarding the status of the project is encouraged to build better relationships.
  2. Keep in mind the Provincial Standards while performing the activities described in the exploration plan.
  3. Consider other regulatory requirements while performing the exploration plan activities on the project.

Questions and Submitting an Electronic or Paper Copy of an Exploration Plan Form

Exploration Plan forms may be submitted in the following ways:

  • Email (preferred method): (.pdf format preferred)
  • Mail, in Person, or Fax (please mail or fax form to the office responsible for the administration of your exploration area):
    • Northwest - Thunder Bay Office (fax: 807-475-1112):
      Ministry of Northern Development and Mines
      Mineral Exploration and Development Section
      Suite B002, 435 James Street South
      Thunder Bay, ON   P7E 6S7
    • Northeast - Timmins Office (fax: 705-235-1660):
      Ministry of Northern Development and Mines
      Mineral Exploration and Development Section
      Ontario Government Office, P.O. Bag  3060
      5520 Hwy 101 East, E Wing
      South Porcupine, ON  P0N 1H0
    • South/Central - Sudbury Office (fax: 705-670-5803):
      Ministry of Northern Development and Mines
      Mineral Exploration and Development Section
      933 Ramsey Lake Road, B6
      Sudbury, ON, P3E 6B5

If you wish to speak with a Mineral Exploration and Development Consultant, please contact the appropriate Mineral Exploration and Development office.

  • Northwest - Thunder Bay Office (807-475-1123)
  • Northeast - Timmins Office (705-235-1625)
  • South/Central - Sudbury Office (705-670-5815) 

Appendix 1 - Map of Mineral Exploration and Development Office Regions

Map of Mineral Exploration and Development Office Regions

Appendix 2 – Map Submission Requirements for Plan Forms

Map Scale, Size, and Format Requirements:

  1. Regional maps should be between 1:50,000 and 1:250,000 scale.  The maps should show exactly where in the province the project is located and include local identifiable features such as towns and cities.  Communities and the ministry should be able to determine the location of the project with ease.
  2. Property scale (Project) maps should be between 1:5,000 and 1:40,000
  3. Maps should not be larger than 11” by 17”. For larger properties, tiled and numbered maps may be submitted
  4. Combined size of the application and all attachments including maps must not exceed 10 MB.
  5. Acceptable map formats include pdf, png and jpg

Minimum Information Requirements for Maps:

  1. The location of exploration sites and activities should be defined on the property scale map.  A polygon or line can be used to depict activities such as trenching, stripping, line cutting and geophysics within 200 m accuracy.  A circle or polygon with a diameter of 200 m accuracy can be used to depict drill pad and pitting location(s).  Please see Appendix 4 for an example of a detailed property map
  2. Additional information, such as exploration trails and roads (use lines) and camps (polygon or circle) which may be constructed should also be shown similarly on the Property scale map within 100 m accuracy
  3. Activities indicated on the map should correspond with the activity and number indicated on the submission.  Appendix 4 has several maps which demonstrate this
  4. First Nation reserves and/or communities
  5. A graphic or bar scale
  6. A north direction arrow
  7. Lakes, streams and other notable topographic features, railways, roads, trails, power lines, pipelines and buildings
  8. Township boundary lines, mining claim, lease, licence of occupation or patent boundaries
  9. The mining claim, lease, licence of occupation, patent or parcel numbers of all mining land covered by the project
  10. Grid coordinate lines established for reference purposes (e.g. UTM coordinates)
  11. A descriptive list of all symbols used including those used to identify the location of prescribed activities being carried out on individual claim units


  1. The more specific and detailed a proponent is in the identification of the locations where the activity(ies) will be undertaken, the better MNDM, SRO’s, the public and Aboriginal communities will be able to understand the activity(ies) proposed. Sufficient detail is required to enable the determination of potential impacts.  An exploration plan form that does not provide sufficient detail may be returned in order to be revised to provide greater detail, or if the consultation process is not considered adequate the Director may determine that an exploration permit is required.
  2. CLAIMaps IV can now be used to produce property and regional scale maps.  This application enables a proponent to add polylines, polygons, and point symbols to maps which can be used to represent activities and other important details such as proposed roads, trails and exploration camps.

Appendix 3 – Definitions

(section numbers for O. Reg. 308/12 unless otherwise indicated)

“circulation date” means the date on which a Director sends, by whatever means, an Exploration Plan or an application for an exploration permit to an Aboriginal community that the Director has identified for purposes of section 7 or 14;

“Director” means a Director of Exploration appointed under section 78 of the Mining Act;

“early exploration” means prospecting and mineral exploration, including those activities that fall within section 1 of Schedule 2 and section 1 of Schedule 3 but not including the activities of advanced exploration or mine production as they are defined in Part VII of the Mining Act;

“early exploration proponent” means a person who is a holder of a mining claim, mining lease, licence of occupation, for mining purposes and is conducting or proposes to conduct early exploration activities and includes:
     a) directors, officers, agents and employees of the early exploration proponent,
     b) partners, subsidiaries and affiliates of the early exploration proponent,
     c) contractors and subcontractors of the early exploration proponent,
     d) successors and assignees of the early exploration proponent;

“Provincial Standards for Early Exploration” means the current version of the document entitled Provincial Standards for Early Exploration published by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and posted on the ministry’s website;

“qualified supervisor” means an individual who has successfully completed the prescribed Prospector's Awareness program not more than five years before the proposed start of the early exploration activities and who provides advice to the early exploration proponent regarding any proposed early exploration activity. 

NOTE: These definitions are provided for convenience.  You should refer to and rely upon the official definitions contained in O. Reg. 308/12 or the Mining Act, as applicable, which will govern if there are any differences in wording from the versions provided here.

Appendix 4 – Example Forms, Maps, and Agent Letters

I. Example of a Regional Map

Example of a Regional Map

II. Example of a Property Map

Example of a Property Map

III. Example of an Agent Letter for a claim holder

Example of an Agent Letter for a claim holder

IV. Example of an Agent Letter for a claim holder that is a Corporation

Example of an Agent Letter for a claim holder that is a Corporation

V. Example of Plan form for an individual Claim Holder

Example of Plan form for an individual Claim Holder (Page 1)Example of Plan form for an individual Claim Holder (Page 2)Example of Plan form for an individual Claim Holder (Page 3)Example of Plan form for an individual Claim Holder (Page 4)

Appendix 5: Other Regulatory Considerations

The Proponent should ensure all other Legislation and Considerations apart from MNDM regulations are followed; examples of several of these are below.  This list is not exhaustive: