At the meeting held in Thimphu on June 19, about 14 issues of non-compliance in the mines and quarries including waste management, poor drainage systems, delayed restoration processes, and poor knowledge on mine plan were highlighted.

The findings of National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS) were shared with representatives from mining promoters and industries, NECS, Department of Geology and Mines (DGM), and labour ministry.

According to information from DGM, there are 70 active mines and quarries, 12 captive mines, 13 mines under restoration, and six mines under renewal process today.

NECS’s officiating head of environment assessment and compliance division, Tshering Dorji, said that NECS would invite mine and quarries companies, which still require improving their environmental requirements and would sign a compliance agreement with the observations made by NECS.

He added that once the agreement is signed, NECS with other departments would conduct joint monitoring to see the compliance of measures proposed in the agreement. “If we find that they are still non-compliant with the agreement, I think we would be levying approval sanctions as per the Environmental Assessment Act 2000. We expect about 20 companies to sign the compliance agreement.”

The signing is expected to be complete by the end of next month.

In the past, all mines and quarries signed the compliance agreement. This will now be required only for the companies with non-compliance issues.

The last compliance agreement was signed in 2015.

As per the National Revenue Report 2016-2017, royalty generated from mines and minerals companies was Nu 329.423 million (M).

Export of mineral resource has generated an income of about USD 29M in 2017, according to the Bhutan Trade Statistics.

Agriculture Minister Yeshey Dorji said that, mining sector is the second largest revenue grosser after tourism sector in the country. “Mining sector is also one of the five jewels. The mining companies employ more than 1,500 people today.”

NECS in coordination with DGM conducts the compliance monitoring annually for the mines and quarries companies.

NECS’s environment officer, Choki Wangmo, said that about 80 percent of the mines and quarries are maintained poorly. Only eight percent of the mines and quarries have sedimentation tanks.

She added that about 25 percent of the mines and quarries have not provided proper crossing structure or protection to river and stream. “Dust suppression method—deployment of sprinkler or tanker are ineffective. Another alternative should be sought.”

While Samtse and Wangdue has the maximum number of mines and quarries.

According to the observation, about nine percent of the mines and quarries have not implemented kitchen wastes and non-degradable wastes segregation.

Proponents from about 60 mines and quarries, officials from DGM, officials from NLC, officials from MoLHR, and officials from NECS attended the meeting yesterday.

Phurpa Lhamo