Fourteen state-owned companies and two private companies won the rights to prospect shale gas blocks in a second round of bidding for the unconventional gas-production method, Caixin reported after a Ministry of Land and Resources announcement on Monday. The companies will invest a combined US$2.06 billion to explore 19 blocks over a three-year period starting this year. A total of 52 state-owned companies, 34 private firms and five Sino-foreign joint ventures met the tender criteria and participated in the bidding last year. All had either gas prospecting licenses or oil and gas exploration licenses. Director of the ministry’s geological exploration department, Peng Qiming, said they will monitor the exploration progress and companies will be punished if they don’t carry out the expected prospecting. The blocks are in the provinces of Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Guizhou, Jiangxi and Zhejiang as well as in Chongqing.