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Mines ministry identifies offshore blocks in economic zone for exploration

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NEW DELHI : The mines ministry on Thursday said it has identified some offshore blocks for granting operational rights and has sought inputs from the departments concerned to ensure there is no overlapping with other projects.

In August, the government amended the Offshore Areas Mineral (Development & Regulation) Act (OAMDR) and introduced a transparent and non-discretionary auction process as the method of allocation of operating rights in the offshore areas.

“The ministry has identified some blocks in the exclusive economic zone of India… in this regard, the ministry has sought comments/inputs from concerned ministries/department for availability of the offshore blocks for grant of operating rights to avoid any overlapping with the projects,” the ministry said in a statement.

To implement the provisions of the amended Act, the ministry framed two sets of draft rules — Offshore Areas Mineral Auction Rules and Offshore Areas Existence of Mineral Resources Rules.

The main features of the draft Offshore Areas Mineral (Auction) Rules include granting of the composite license and production lease through an ascending forward online electronic auction.

The draft Offshore Areas Existence of Mineral Resources Rules proposes at least a G2 level of exploration (General Exploration) for considering a block for auction for production lease.

However, in the case of blocks of Construction Grade Silica Sand and Lime Mud or Calcareous Mud, an auction for product in lease can be made at the G3 level of exploration also, as per the draft rules.

For the grant of a composite license, the block should be explored up to the G4 level of exploration or the mineral potentiality of the mineral block should be identified.

The exploration for any mineral deposit involves four stages — reconnaissance survey (G4), preliminary exploration (G3), general exploration (G2) and detailed exploration (G1).

G2-level exploration’s objective is to establish the main geological features of a deposit and provide an initial estimate of the size, shape, structure and grade of the mineral in the mine.

The ministry is also in the process of framing other rules under the OAMDR Act such as the Offshore Areas Mineral Conservation and Development Rules; Offshore Areas Mineral Concession Rules and Offshore Areas Mineral Trust Rules.

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