Marine Minerals Program

BOEM is the agency of the Department of the Interior tasked with managing the extraction of offshore minerals from America's Outer Continental Shelf. While the largest component of this is the exploration for and development of oil and gas resources, the Bureau is also responsible for what are loosely referred to as "non-energy minerals" (primarily sand and gravel) -- obtained from the ocean floor.

As steward for these resources, BOEM must ensure that the removal of any mineral resources is done in a safe and environmentally sound manner, and that any potential adverse impacts to the marine, coastal and/or human environments are avoided or minimized.

Loss of sand from the Nation’s beaches, dunes, and barrier islands is a serious problem that affects both the coastal environment and the economy. For example, Louisiana, which has the highest coastal erosion rate in the country, has lost an average of 43 square km of land from its coast each year since 1985. Beach nourishment and other coastal restoration projects are addressing this problem, and sand from the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) is often used to stem this erosion.

BOEM has conveyed rights to millions of cubic yards of OCS sand for coastal restoration projects in multiple states. These projects have resulted in the restoration of hundreds of miles of the Nation's coastline, protecting billions of dollars of infrastructure as well as important ecological habitat.

Key MMP Statistics

OCS sand authorized for use more than 113 million cubic yards of sand conveyed
Total number of leases executed 49 leases
Total number of coastal restoration projects complete 40 projects
Number of States with restoration projects 7 states
Miles of coastline restored 279 miles of coastline restored

Construction at NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility.

Some of these projects were done on an emergency basis, where imminent breaching of barrier islands was prevented by the rapid placement of OCS sand. Most of these projects used sand that was previously identified by the Bureau through its cooperative sand evaluation program with coastal states.

The Bureau uses two types of lease conveyances for sand and gravel and other non-energy minerals from the OCS. These are by a non-competitive negotiated agreement, which can only be used for obtaining sand and gavel for public works projects funded in part or whole by a federal, state, or local government agency, and by a competitive lease sale in which any qualified person may submit a bid. In addition to sand and gravel, the Marine Minerals Program (MMP) has also responded to such diverse lease requests as salt from the Atlantic OCS and metallic ores from the Pacific Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The MMP historically implemented the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) 8(k) authority through 3 main functions:

  • preparing non-competitive leases and Memoranda of Agreements (MOAs),
  • completing environmental studies in support of leasing, and
  • managing and coordinating cooperative agreements, task forces, and other working groups with State and federal agencies

BOEM Marine Minerals Program Fact Sheet

BOEM's Hurricane Sandy Response

Atlantic Sand Assessment Project

Understanding the Habitat Value and Function of Shoal/Ridge/Trough Complexes to Fish and Fisheries on the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf" Working Group, January 24, 2014

Understanding the Habitat Value and Function of Shoal/Ridge/Trough Complexes to Fish and Fisheries on the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf Working Group, January 24, 2014 Draft Working Group Report

Central Atlantic Sand Management Working Group (March 31, 2014): Summary and Presentation

Florida Sand Management Working Group webinar (February 2, 2016): Summary and Presentation

North East Sand Management Working Group webinar (July 15, 2014): Summary and Presentation

Gulf of Mexico Sand Management Working Group Meeting (October 13, 2015): Summary and Presentations

Science Exchange Meeting (December 2, 2015): Presentations