The government today said that the mines ministry is closely working with its law counterpart to evolve an enabling framework which would result in auction of offshore mineral blocks quickly. “We are working with the Law Ministry to work on what enabling framework can be quickly brought up by which we can quickly start that auction,” Mines Minister Piyush Goyal said while addressing a press conference here.
As far as the current law is concerned, Goyal said, there are some restraints because of which the mines ministry is not able to auction these offshore mineral blocks. These offshore blocks contain minerals such as zirconium, titanium, thorium, tungsten and rare earth elements.
“The current law as it stands, I will have to give it out on a literally first come first serve basis which you know is not in my scheme of things. So the department (mines ministry) is working with the law ministry to see how we can make requisite legal framework because I would like to start that auction quickly,” the minister said.
The government had said in January that it will soon come out with redrafted rules with regard to exploration and mining in offshore mineral blocks and allot 60 blocks under auction route in first phase. Offshore Areas Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act, 2002 will be redrafted soon, the government had said.
Once the Act is redrafted, the allotment of offshore mineral blocks would be done through auction route. In the present Act, there is no provision for auction of offshore mineral blocks. Earlier, the offshore mineral blocks were given through allotment route. Applications were invited and allotment of blocks was done which was not transparent.
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The Geological Survey of India (GSI) carries out surveys in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Territorial Waters (TW) of India to assess the offshore mineral resources. TW is the belt of coastal water that extends up to 12 nautical miles (around 22 km) from the coast of a country.
EEZ is a sea zone on which a country has special rights regarding exploration as well as the use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.