The government is working on tabling a Mines and Minerals Bill in the upcoming summer session of Parliament, economics affairs minister Loknath Sharma said at the Nation Council’s question hour yesterday.

The Bill will seek to repeal the Mines and Minerals Management Act 1995, which the House believes is outdated to cover the current issues.

“There is no question about whether or not we will amend the current Mines and Minerals Management Act. The government believes that it’s high time we amended the Act,” he said.

The economic affairs minister said that the government would come to a logical conclusion on streamlining policies related to mines and minerals within two to three years. “At the moment, we are holding brainstorming sessions on how to come up with a best law,” he said.

He said the government is working in such a way that the amendment would benefit the local community in terms of employment opportunities, business, education and health. Under the prevailing system, he said the local community was not able to benefit from the mining and minerals sector.

Eminent member and chairman of economic affairs committee, Tashi Wangyal, said the National Law Review Taskforce had found the Mines and Mineral Management Act 1995 inconsistent with the Constitution and that the two needed to be harmonised.

“Two governments have come and gone, but the Act remains to be amended. We are concerned about the government’s inability to address the problem,” he said.

Tashi Wangyal cited Article 1, Section 12 of the Constitution which states, “The rights over mineral resources, rivers, lakes and forests shall vest in the State and are the properties of the State, which shall be regulated by law.”

He also cited Article 9, Section 7 of the Constitution, which states that the state should endeavour to develop and execute policies to minimise inequalities of income, concentration of wealth, and promote equitable distribution of public facilities among individuals and people living in different parts of the Kingdom.

He said that the mines and minerals sector had benefited only a few individuals and families although the wealth belonged to the state. He said a proper law to regulate the sector would help narrow the gap between the rich and poor.

The eminent member also said that corruption in mines and minerals sector was a major cause of concern for the House. “Corruption not only affects good governance but also our revenue,” he said.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said the sector employed 1,449 people in the country. However, he added that the sector holds a greater potential in terms of revenue generation and creation of employment opportunities.

He said that some of the licensed quarries were not operational. He said that issuances of new licenses were suspended in 2013 and that the decision will stay until the government streamlines the policy.

Council members said that about 80,000 youth are expected to enter the job market in the 12th Plan and that the sector could be helpful in creation of jobs within the country. Given its potential, members said that the number of jobs the sector provided at the moment were at the minimum.

Member from Dagana, Surja Man Thapa said that most of the quarries were in the south and that the local communities had suffered losses in terms of environment and health. “We would like to see the corporate social responsibility fixed on the quarries,” he said.

MB Subba