The Mines and Minerals Bill 2020, being discussed at the Assembly is drawing a lot of attention. It is an important Bill, it affects a lot of people and there is a lot at stake.

An amendment to the Act had been wanting. For whatever reasons, past governments have not attempted to amend it even with pressure from the Council who accused past governments of not keeping their words when the Act was not tabled for years.

The Bill is being discussed. Consultations were simultaneously held and honourable members are having a good discussion in the Assembly. Given the importance of the Bill, we can surmise that a lot of background works had been done before the Bill is passed.

There are several issues.  The latest from yesterday’s discourse is reserving 30 percent jobs in mining companies for the people in the community where mines are located. Some are warning of consequences like locals blocking proposals if they are not benefited.

The discussions are considerate of both miners and the community. At the heart of the discussion is the understanding that natural resources belong to the country and that not a few individuals should prosper from it.

Such discourse should lead to an Act that will not be a bone of contention like in the past. Ground realities should be considered even if parliamentarians are pressured by interest groups.

Reserving 30 percent jobs for the community, for instance, is a tricky issue. Are we talking about unskilled miners, supervisors or skilled workers? What if a mine is located away from a community? Who all are left in the rural community? The young ones are out looking for better opportunities. Will a mine be stopped if 30 percent of the workers are not from the community? The questions are many.

That community trying to stop mines is not new. This had been the biggest threat to miners. Mining companies, in the past, had claimed that in the name of the community, some people in the community could stop mining for reasons other than for the benefit of the community.

It is true that communities are at receiving end of mining natural resources. We have, in the past, issues related to environment, damage to crops and properties, loss of water source and pollution. In the mining sector, these activities happen way beyond the eyes of the authorities. The remote the community, worse is the impact.

Local communities should be protected if not benefiting from mining activities. What we need is stringent rules and regulations. More important than having them are the implementation and monitoring. Once a mining activity starts, it is difficult to stop. Worse, before a community realizes the impact and gets it resolved, a lot would have been damaged.

The timing is good. At the consultation meetings, several issues from all stakeholders were raised. The parliamentarians are all aware of the issues to help them make good decisions.

The ball is in the court of the lawmakers. It is in their hands to ensure how mineral resources are managed, regulated and benefit more than a handful of people.