Land: A private excavation work for constructing a house in Panbari Samtse is drawing some controversies as the excavation revealed talc, a mineral, which is mined in the dzongkhag.

The issue started with neighbouring households expressing concerns of possible impact to their houses. But now the locals are alleging the contractor of lifting talc illegally.

The three households wrote a letter to the dzongkhag administration and National Environment Commission (NEC) in Samtse complaining about the suspected illegal lifting of talc.

Kuensel learnt that the owner of the land where the excavation had taken place had made an agreement to give the work to a contractor, originally from Haa. The contractor, on the other hand, would dig the foundation free of cost and take the minerals.

A source said that it was the contractor who had known about the land having talc deposits. The contractor had identified the owner of the land and colluded in the pretext of excavating for house construction.

Sources also said this excavation work above a point on Samtse – Phuentsholing highway was done without any instruction from concerned authorities. Approval to construct the house was also not acquired.

One of the three complainants, Yamu Ghalley, said “an illegal mining” was ensuing at this location at Samtse-Phuentsholing highway.

“Officials from environment commission and dzongkhag also visited,” he said, adding that the team had carried out survey and demarcated boundary limits. “But they were continuing with the digging as there are no officials to monitor.”

Yamu Ghalley said one should have approval from respective authorities for constructing houses. This construction was just to hide the intention, he said explaining the ulterior motive was mineral extraction.

The major problem, Yamu Ghalley said would be on his house, which he claimed was about 10-15 feet above the site. The contractor and the landowner are doing it deliberately.

An NEC official in Samtse said they received a complaint even before the excavation work had started, which hinted the contractor would extract minerals. “We called and explained to the complainants and the contractor about the excavation limits,” he said.

“The complainants were misinformed that excavation would go until the road level, which worried them,” the official said. “We cannot allow excavation until the road level.”

The officials said the contractor was helping to develop the site and some talc had appeared by chance. “Our concern was that while the excavation happened, it shouldn’t affect the neighbour’s land.”

As mining talc would have entirely different procedure, in cases where talc appeared as while excavation, an excavator can get permit from the department of geology and mines (DGM) to dispatch the minerals after paying royalty.

The NEC official said the contractor was also informed to follow up with DGM in case he comes across minerals.

Meanwhile, neither the contractor nor the landowner had visited Samtse geology and mines office to follow up. Kuensel learned the contractor had visited the head office to inform about the talc’s appearances. However, the contractor was not entertained with any process to dispatch talc.

The case has also been forwarded to Samtse’s Dorokha-Tading constituency member of parliament (MP) Tek Bdr Subba.

“I have been informed about this about two days ago,” the parliamentarian said yesterday. “I heard talc was disposed during the day and vanished in the night.”

Such a case, MP Tek Bdr Subba said, would mean the talc was discretely transported throughout the night. The MP also said the authorities need to act.

The MP said he has deployed people to find out what exactly had transpired.

Rich in minerals, Samtse has always been notorious in mining controversies. Early this year, the Anti-Corruption Commission also found a contractor of illegally lifting talc from a school excavation site.

By Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing