Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

Kuchi from Rishor in Dewathang gewog, Samdrupjongkhar received Nu 1.1 million (M) from the SD Eastern Bhutan Coal Company (SDEBCC) yesterday for the damages to her house.

Of the seven affected households, the company paid compensation of Nu 100,000 to Nu 220,000 to four families. The company did not pay for two absent families. 

The seven affected households raised the issue with the gewog administration, but could not resolve it. The gewog forwarded the case to the dzongkhag administration, which sent out a committee to verify.

Given the lack of technical expertise, the dzongkhag administration forwarded the verification report with recommendations to the regional geology and mines office on April 9.

The Department of Geology and Mines (DGM) in Thimphu issued a letter on April 17 to the dzongkhag asking them to take necessary action or to negotiate with the affected households of Khorpam village and resolve the issues.

The company’s general manager, BB Tamang, said the firm negotiated with the affected households and agreed to compensate them in the presence of gewog and regional DGM officials during a meeting on April 21.

He said that they paid compensation of Nu 1.77M to the five households while the other two families were not present during the meeting. He said that one of them had indicated for a land substitution and the company was working on it.

BB Tamang said they had informed the other families that the company would be closing soon and that all requirements have to complete before the company’s closure.

He said of the Nu 1.77M, the company had paid Nu 1.1M to Kuchi as her house was severely damaged and others were paid depending on the extent of damages. 

“We are paying to help them and not because our mining activities had caused the damages,” BB Tamang said.

SDEBCC chief executive officer, Sonam Dukpa, said that the company was at the final stages of closing and that the liquidator was in charge of the company’s affairs. He said they acted on behalf of the liquidator to help the villagers and agreed to compensate the damages.

Kuchi said she has been living in a semi-permanent house after her house was severely damaged. “I am indeed happy and thankful to the company for compensation. I could now build a new house with the money.”

Others said that they had no choice but to ask for compensation from the company as they are all from low-income groups. They can now maintain their houses with the amount they got from the company.

The company started extracting coal at Rishor since 2004.