The Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the Offshore Areas Mineral (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2023, which seeks to make amendments to the Offshore Areas Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act, 2002 (‘OAMDR Act’).

The Bill was passed by LokSabha on August 1; and will now be sent for President for assent.

The proposed amendments introduce auction for allocation of operating rights in offshore areas.

Other amendments state, operating rights are to be granted to private sector only through auction by competitive bidding (production lease and composite licence).

“Composite licences introduced in the Act is a two stage operating right granted for the purpose of undertaking exploration followed by production operation,” the Mines Ministry said in a statement.

The amendments mention that operating rights to be granted to PSUs in the mineral bearing areas will be reserved by the Central Government; while amendments also make provisions for grant of operating rights only to PSUs in case of atomic minerals.

Amendments grant production lease for a fixed period of 50 years on lines similar to the MMDR Act.

A limit has also been introduced on total area one person can acquire in the offshore (not more than 45 minutes latitude by 45 minutes longitude) in respect of any mineral or prescribed group of associated minerals under one or more operating rights (taken together).

To ensure availability of funds for exploration, a non-lapsable Offshore Areas Mineral Trust will maintain a fund under the Public Account of India. This will be funded by an additional levy on the production of minerals, not exceeding one third of the royalty.

Easy transfer of licenses, introduction of timelines for commencement of production and dispatch after the execution of production lease have also been proposed. The amendments maintain royalty, auction premium and other revenues from the production of minerals from offshore areas shall accrue to the Government of India.