Revision of Law on Subsoil could be adopted by year's end - minister

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MOSCOW, October 17 (RIA Novosti) - A new draft of the Law on Subsoil could be adopted by the end of 2005, Russian Minister of Natural Resources Yury Trutnev said in an interview with RIA Novosti Friday.

He said the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, would review the draft of the document in the first reading on November 2 and expressed hope that all controversial issues would be resolved during preparations for the second and third readings so that it could be adopted by the end of 2005.

The bill establishes that the state has the sole right to sell or transfer subsoil exploration licenses and that rights to subsoil exploration should be sold primarily through auctions. The bill also includes provisions establishing the bond security and transferability of rights mechanisms and limiting subsoil contract rights in favor of Russian companies.

"The management of subsoil exploration, which brings in 60% of state budget revenues, must be controlled by the Russian state," Trutnev said, adding that the new revision simplifies and clarifies the rules for all players on the market.

Earlier Monday, the State Duma committee on budget and taxation recommended that the draft should be adopted in the first reading with necessary amendments to be introduced before the second reading.

The committee suggested that control over exploration methods and schedules should remain the responsibility of regional governments and that open tenders must always precede auctions.

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