India is surrounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the south-west and the Bay of Bengal on the south-east.
The government will soon bring in a legislative change to pave way for allocation of all offshore non-hydrocarbon mineral blocks, including those with atomic minerals, through the auction route. Currently, only onshore minerals are being auctioned.
Sources said work was in progress in the mines ministry to amend the Offshore Areas Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act, 2002, which governs all offshore minerals, barring crude oil and other hydrocarbons. The proposed amendments will make way for granting the exploration licence-cum-production lease for offshore minerals to a prospective player through the auction route.
India is surrounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the south-west and the Bay of Bengal on the south-east. The country has more than 7,500-km-long coastline and territorial waters cover more than 0.15 million sqkm.
Seabed resources of these areas and the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) covering about 1.87 million sqkm have also come to light in recent years. If legal continent shelf is taken into account, total offshore area would become about 3.09 million sqkm, sources at the mines ministry said. The OAMDR Act does not provide for auctioning of minerals, unlike the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (Amendment) Act, 2015, which makes auction mandatory for all non-coal minerals in onshore areas. “We are ready with the Cabinet note to bring amendments to the OAMDR Act. This will be circulated soon. Following the Cabinet’s approval, the OAMDR Amendment Bill, 2018 will be introduced in Parliament for deliberation and passage,” said a senior official with the mines ministry.
“Through the proposed amendment, we wish to make participation of prospective bidders more attractive than open acreage licence policy (OALP). We also propose to give the explorer the right to hive off up to five sub-blocks,” the official said.
The mines ministry had earlier sought suggestions from the law ministry as to whether it can extend the auctioning provision of the MMDR (Amendment) Act for offshore minerals as well, since section 29 of the OAMDR Act, 2002 empowers the Centre to make any “enactment so extended shall have effect as if the offshore area or the part thereof, as the case maybe, is a part of the territory of India”.
The Marine and Coastal Survey Division of the GSI and the National Institute of Oceanography have embarked on carrying out preliminary offshore exploration for economic minerals in the offshore areas, mainly for economic heavy minerals, construction sand, phosphatic nodules, lime mud and polymetallic nodules. The UPA government had in 2010 allocated 62 exploration mineral licences in the offshore area, but these were to be annulled subsequently following a controversy over the process of allocation.