MB Subba

The National Assembly adopted a new clause in the Mines and Minerals Bill 2020, which states that at least 30 percent of the employment opportunities should be provided to members of the local community.

The Bill states that the lessee shall provide preference to eligible affected community for employment opportunities and procurement of goods and services. 

However, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that it would invite problems if the mining company cannot get the prescribed human resource requirement from the community.

“It’s important that jobs should be provided to the community, but we don’t think we should prescribe the requirement in percentage,” he said. 

The recommendation on keeping 30 percent of the job opportunities to the community was proposed by the economic and finance committee.

Khamaed Lunana MP Yeshey Dem said that setting a 30 percent benchmark was not in line with the Constitution as opportunities should be given to all Bhutanese. She suggested that the proposed percentage should be reduced.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that jobs should be available to people from all dzongkhags. He said there is no need to prescribe specific what percentage of jobs should be provided to the community.

 Draagteng Langthil MP Gyem Dorji said that community engagement in mining was one of the most important aspects of the Bill. “Some families have lost their land and properties to mining,” he said.

 Chairman of the economic and finance committee, Kinley Wangchuk, said that the community could delay the community clearance if the direct benefits are not prescribed in the law.

 “The local community faces all the impacts of the mining work. If jobs are given to the community, they would be willing to give clearance,” he said. 

 The affected community shall be granted priority to buy equity stake in the mining company. 

 The affected community shall be compensated through benefit sharing scheme as prescribed. 

The Bill states that the communities should have access to social infrastructure developed by the lessee and other infrastructures such as medical facilities, road and water supply. 

 The committee also proposed a new Section, which states that 10 percent of the revenue collected by state from the mining companies should be kept for the community. “The money should be used for constructing roads and water facilities in the community,” he said. 

 According to the Bill, a lessee may in the mining area have the exclusive right to mine any permissible minerals and sale, construct, operate and maintain mines, roads, aerial ropeways, communication systems and other facilities necessary for mining.

 The lessee shall start mining operation within the period specified, carry out mining operations in accordance with the Mine Plan, Environmental and Social Risk Management and Mitigation Plan.

 The Bill aims to build mineral value chain, ensure broad-based ownership, achieve economy of scale of mines, enhancing transparency and accountability in the mining sector. 

 Ensuring scientific, environment-friendly and socially responsible mining has also been emphasised. 

 The deliberation on the bill completed yesterday. The House will vote to pass the Bill today.