Judiciary: The High Court has upheld the district court verdict on the Gidawom mining case, dismissing the appellant’s (the three mining companies namely River View, Taktshang and RSA private limited) appeal yesterday.

The mining companies had appealed to the High Court on March 31 after losing the case against 29 villagers from Gidawom and Jamdo village in Mewang gewog following 20 months of trial in the district court.

The appellant’s legal representative, Ugyen Dorji, submitted to the High Court that his clients appealed on the grounds that the lower court’s verdict didn’t consider his client’s submissions.

They countered that the judgment was based only on the evidences and submission from the villagers.

The dzongkhag court ordered that the appellant pay Nu 745,530 to the eight affected households for causing cracks and damages from the blasting executed at the mining sites operated by the appellant.

The companies were also asked to blacktop the roads up to the mines and take measures to control the wastewater from entering an irrigation channel. The appellant were directed to improve the drinking water supply for the community.

However, the High Court ruling dismissed the appeal from the three mining companies saying it upholds the lower court’s judgment. The high court ordered that the appellant pay the compensation to the affected households as stated by the district court.

Though the companies have appealed and argued that they caused no damage and cracks on the eight houses since it was using the explosives within the permissible limit, the High Court stated that the findings of a mines and minerals official on May 25,  2015 found the blasting was causing damages to the houses.

“The official had marked the cracks on the walls and later found that the cracks had slightly widened after the blasting,” the High Court ruling stated.

According to the High Court, going by section 102 (D) of the National Environment Protection Act 2007, compensation has to be made to the affected households if there is damage to property as stated by the lower court’s verdict.

The companies were also asked to ensure that the road is paved to minimise health hazards and pollution in the community. “Though corporate social responsibility wasn’t covered in the agreement, with changing times, it has now become the order of the day. Moreover, since the companies have obligation to help the community, the appellant must repair the road to reduce the pollution and health hazards,” the High Court’s dismissal order stated.

This was in relation to the companies countering that the agreement drawn between the parties earlier does not state that the road has to be blacktopped until the mining area.

The High Court also expressed doubt on whether the implementing agencies like the Department of Geology and Mines and the National Environment Commission have taken their responsibilities with due diligence going by the leniency found in the procedures pertaining to environment laws.

The High Court, therefore, reiterated the need for the implementing agencies to strictly follow the environmental laws and other related rules while issuing environmental clearances and after the issuance of the clearance, pertaining to mining.

Tempa Wangdi