Govt readying to auction 59 offshore mineral mines in next 2-3 months: Mines Secretary

Around 35 offshore mineral blocks have been handed over to the Centre by the GSI for auctions & 24 more are in the pipeline, said the Mines Secretary
Mines Secretary VL Kantha Rao (file photo)
Mines Secretary VL Kantha Rao (file photo)Energy Watch

New Delhi: Thirty-five offshore mineral blocks have already been handed over to the Central government by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) for auctions and another 24 are in the pipeline, said Mines Secretary VL Kantha Rao on Thursday. “As the process of auctioning of offshore blocks for exploration & exploitation is a new domain, for this initiative to succeed in a meaningful way, Mines Ministry is working on the Amendments in the Offshore Areas Mineral (Development & Regulation) Act, 2002, said Rao while inaugurating a workshop titled “Offshore Exploration: Synergies and Opportunities (OESO)” in Mangalore.

Rao highlighted that with the 2023 amendments in place, the Ministry of Mines will start the auction process in the next two-three months for these offshore blocks. Moreover, the Ministry of Mines is also in the process of developing the process, procedure, norms and the SOPs that will take care of the requirements once the private sector bidder gets the block in the auction to move forward for its exploitation.

Rao congratulated the GSI for bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders, including governmental bodies, research institutions, academia, and industry players, for discussions on fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing in the offshore domain.

Mines Secretary urges industry to collaborate in offshore mineral mining

In his concluding remarks, Rao spoke about the vast geological/offshore data generated by GSI over its journey of more than 172 years. He urged one and all to consult the GSI data through GSI portal and also through the recently launched NGDR portal which is of immense help for institutions working in offshore domain. He requested other institutions having their own data repository to put their data in public domain for use by other agencies. Rao urged the GSI, academia, scientific institutions, PSUs and others working in offshore domain to collaborate and handhold the industry in its endeavors for exploration and exploitation of these mineral blocks for the benefit of the country.

‘We must harness our mineral resources in a sustainable, responsible manner’

Addressing the gathering, Janardan Prasad, DG, GSI, underscored the significance of this workshop as the nation embarks on a journey to harness offshore mineral resources for rapid economic development, aligning with the larger vision of the government. He shared that the GSI has been working in offshore exploration since the 1970s and has earmarked various offshore blocks for Polymetallic Nodules, heavy mineral placers, Lime mud and construction sand, emphasising the vast potential of India's coastal zones. Despite holding a wealth of resources, much of this potential remains untapped, he said. Prasad added that it is our collective responsibility to harness this potential in a sustainable and responsible manner, ensuring that future generations can benefit from these riches.

During the technical sessions, the focal point of discussions revolved around the Amendments in the Offshore Areas Mineral (Development & Regulation) Act, 2002, and the formulation of draft guidelines for the notification of private exploration agencies for offshore exploration. These discussions aimed to streamline and facilitate private sector participation in offshore exploration activities.

The workshop agenda encompassed a wide array of topics, including an overview of GSI's activities in the offshore, government initiatives in promoting exploration and exploitation, collaborative frameworks for data sharing, and sustainable practices for offshore mineral exploration. The workshop sought to establish mechanisms for effective data sharing and collaboration among agencies involved in offshore exploration, fostering a conducive environment for joint research initiatives, information sharing, and technical expertise exchange to drive innovation and exploration in offshore mineral resources.

Mines Secretary VL Kantha Rao (file photo)
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The workshop featured presentations from leading experts from MoES, NIO, NCPOR, ONGC, NIOT, IREL (India) Ltd. and DGH covering topics ranging from data acquisition to environmental considerations, providing participants with valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities within the offshore exploration sector. With an extensive list of participants from ministries, defence, research institutions, academia, and industry, the workshop served as a platform for fruitful discussions.

The workshop was organised by the Marine and Coastal Survey Division (MCSD) of the GSI.

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