No mineral excavation sans DGM approval

Mining: Department of Geology and Mines (DGM) said it will this week resolve the alleged illegal mining case at Panbari in Samtse.

A team comprising officials from the department and Samtse Dzongkhag concluded its investigation including site visit that was initiated after media reported the alleged illegal mining in the area.

A landowner agreed to an individual carrying out site development for his house construction at Panbari in August last year during which talc deposits were uncovered.

DGM’s director Phuntsho Tobgay said the individual had excavated the mineral but has not exported yet.

“It is not 100 percent illegal because the individual has drawn an agreement with the land owner for excavation of the site, and had sought the dzongkhag administration’s approval too,” the director said. “We’ve taken enough time and worked out a comprehensive report on the case.”

However, there are issues such as rent seeking behaviour of the landowner, inadequacies in legislation and coordination among agencies.

The department will propose amendment to the Mines and Minerals Management Act 1995 and its regulations in which there is lack of details of certain provisions on degree of offences and penalties, among others.

The Act is also silent on compensating the landowners whose land has minerals, he said.

The department has submitted the mineral development policy to the Cabinet and will seek an appointment to present it for endorsement.

“Once we’ve the policy, we can go ahead with the amendment of the Act and rules,” the director said.

In another case, a bend on the Samtse – Dorokha road with talc deposit was widened beyond the normal width. From that road point people dug 15 metres in to the mountain to extract the mineral.

Following mining of mineral deposits during road widening, site development, foundation digging, and road constructions, the economic affairs secretary issued a notice prohibiting such activities on December 23 last year.

Any individual or agency extracting minerals without the geology and mines department’s approval whether on private or government land would be penalised, the notification stated.

All the natural resources are property of the state and the department alone is the authority for approving extraction and export of minerals.

The economic affairs secretary’s notice states that any mineral found during construction activities whether in private or government land, require geology and mines department’s approval to excavate their extraction.

It is the responsibility of the landowner or agency to report to DGM if any minerals of economic value are discovered.

Tshering Palden

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