The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) (43 U.S.C. 1331, et. seq.) provides the Secretary of the Interior the authority to manage minerals other than oil, gas, and sulphur on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
The Department of the Interior’s (DOI’s) jurisdiction over exploration, leasing, and recovery of marine minerals, or hard minerals, extends to the subsoil and seabed of all submerged lands seaward of state boundaries to the limits of the OCS (except where modified by international law or convention or affected by the Presidential Proclamation of March 10, 1983, regarding the Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ]).
The OCSLA does not provide authority to issue prospecting permits or leases in the EEZ of a commonwealth or territory of the U.S.
Section 3 of OCSLA (43 U.S.C. 1332) describes the OCS as a vital national resource reserve, held by the Federal Government for the public, which is to be made available for expeditious and orderly development, subject to environmental safeguards. Section 5 of OCSLA (43 U.S.C. 1334) empowers the Secretary to prescribe rules and regulations necessary to provide for the prevention of waste and conservation of mineral and natural resources located on the OCS.
Noncompetitive Use of OCS Sand, Gravel and Shell Resources
Section 8 of OCSLA (43 U.S.C. 1337(k)(2)) allows BOEM to negotiate, on a noncompetitive basis, the right to use OCS sand, gravel, or shell resources for shore protection, beach or wetlands restoration projects undertaken by Federal, State or local agencies, or for use in construction projects funded in whole or in part by or authorized by the Federal Government. There is no direct or indirect fee related to the use of OCS sand, gravel, or shell resources in a qualifying project.
Section 11 of OCSLA (43 U.S.C. 1340) allows BOEM to authorize qualified persons to undertake geophysical and geological exploration for OCS sand, gravel, and shell resources.
Regulations related to the noncompetitive use of OCS sand, gravel, and shell resources are:
- 30 CFR Part 583: Negotiated Noncompetitive Agreements for the use of Outer Continental Shelf Sand, Gravel, and/or Shell Resources
Commercial Prospecting, Leasing, and Operations related to OCS Marine Minerals
Most other uses of OCS marine minerals are for commercial purposes. Section 8 of OCSLA (43 U.S.C. 1337(k)) establishes a competitive leasing process for marine minerals.
Section 11 of OCSLA (43 U.S.C. 1340) allows BOEM to authorize qualified persons to undertake geophysical and geological exploration, or prospecting when commercial in nature, for OCS marine minerals.
Regulations for commercial prospecting, leasing, and operations related to OCS marine minerals, including marine aggregates, are:
- 30 CFR Part 580: Prospecting for Minerals Other than Oil, Gas, and Sulfur on the Outer Continental Shelf
- 30 CFR Part 581: Leasing of Minerals Other than Oil, Gas, and Sulfur in the Outer Continental Shelf
- 30 CFR Part 582: Operations in the Outer Continental Shelf for Minerals Other than Oil, Gas, and Sulfur
Research related to OCS Marine Minerals
The Mining and Minerals Policy Act of 1970 (30 U.S.C. 21) establishes U.S. policy concerning the development of and research related to domestic minerals, including minerals found on the OCS.
Section 19 of OCSLA (43 U.S.C. 1345(e)) and Section 20 of OCSLA (43 U.S.C. 1346) authorize BOEM to fund cooperative agreement research and environmental studies related to the use and stewardship of OCS marine minerals.
The National Materials and Minerals Policy, Research, and Development Act of 1980 (30 U.S.C. Chapter 28) and Marine Minerals Resources Research Act of 1996 (30 U.S.C. Chapter 30) further clarify U.S. policy and research and development objectives related to the exploration and use of marine minerals.
BOEM complies with numerous environmental laws in executing its mission.