NA defers MMB (2020) for large benefit, proposes mix-mode ownership of mining rights

Puran Gurung/ Thimphu In the Joint Sitting, the Speaker of the National Assembly indefinitely deferred the Mines and Mineral Bill (2020) for the large benefit, the National Assembly also proposed mixed-mode mining rights. According to the National Assembly, a mixed-mode authority should be implemented so that both State-owned Enterprises and Private Companies have the mining rights, and also float about three per cent equity shares. The bill is re-deliberated because the National Council’s finding prove that the mining rights to the private companies is incongruous to the Constitution, and that it is operated by few people when it should have benefited the entire Bhutanese populace as stated in the Constitution. A reliable source reveals the data that only about 0.017 per cent of 47,103 license holders has the mining rights, if the country’s entire demographics is considered, only 0.001 per cent has the mining rights, only few top-notch businesses. During the re-deliberation of MMB (2020) at the Joint Sitting, the Speaker, Namgyel Wangchuk deferred the Mines and Mineral Bill (2020) indefinitely. It didn’t go well with National Council members, the National Council Chairperson, Tashi Dorji expressed that it was unfair to defer the MMB (2020) indefinitely. Some believed that there was no significant amendments in the MMB (2020), and that the National Council adopted it when the implementing agency of mines and minerals had no clear idea about the bill. ‘The bill as expected got deferred at the Joint Sitting, we as the implementing agency were clueless about the amendments,” said an official at MoEA. The official further stressed that the review on the bill didn’t go through enough consultation and it didn’t follow the due process to garner understanding and also get a proper discussion. In an earlier Press Conference by the National Council, the council clearly expressed their intent, that the NC wants to uphold the Constitution and assure that the state resources benefits the people of Bhutan following the Article 1.12, the ownership of mineral resources vests in the State. To not create lapses in Article 9.7 of the Constitution that will overlook democracy, social justice, harmony and national security, the National Council wanted to deliberate the MMB (2020). The council also highlighted incidences that only the elite rung of the society benefitted from state resources citing independent report conducted by the Royal Audit Authority in 2014. The National Council’s stand will allow the private sector to operate stone quarries, boulders, and surface and river bed material collection. With this, the National Council also recommend to allocate mining rights to State-Owned Enterprise. For the deliberation, the Legislative Committee of the National Council, 150 sections were submitted, 48 sections for review, four sections were withdrawn, and five new sections were introduced by the committee. Since the bill was first deliberated in the parliament, the National Council religiously stood their ground that mining rights to private companies is incongruous to the Constitution citing the Mines and Minerals Management Act (1995), and that it should follow Article 1.10 of the Constitution. Meanwhile, the delay in amendment speaks of failure to take responsibility, shares Drametse-Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi. He also added that a joint sitting comes to action to reach a consensus and that even after six sitting a decision is not reached and it clearly indicates the failure of taking responsibilities by both the houses. According to National Council’s finding, it is reported that SOEs fetch higher export prices, SOEs generate greater profits, SOEs pay higher taxes, SOEs contribute greater amount of revenue, and SOEs supports private sector development.