Three companies, including one partly owned by Far North Mayor Wayne Brown, have been awarded permits to explore for gold, silver and other metals at five Northland locations, including four around the Bay of Islands.
Mr Brown is listed as a director and shareholder of Te Tai Tokerau Minerals Ltd, which has two permits northwest of Kerikeri.
Australian company De Grey Mining has two permits south east of Paihia. A third company Waimatenui Exploration has a permit for an area about 30km south of Kaikohe.
Combined, the five areas to be explored cover more than 16,000ha.
Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges said the new permits, the first under the Government's new competitive tender regime "will help create jobs and lift the Northland economy''.
"This presents an exciting opportunity for Northland and for New Zealand. There is significant potential for the country to grow the economic contribution made by minerals.''
Other than gold and silver, De Grey will explore for lead, copper, zinc and mercury and Waimatenui will look for copper nickel and zinc.
The 5-10 year exploration phase would consist of "low impact'' activities.