Mining: The Supreme Court conducted a miscellaneous hearing yesterday after an appeal from the four mining companies in Gidawom. The High Court dismissed their appeal on the dzongkhag court’s judgment.

The companies’ attorney Ugyen Dorji had appealed to the High Court against the trial court’s verdict in March this year. He submitted that the verdict was based on  evidence and submissions from the villagers and didn’t consider the submissions of his clients.

About 29 villagers from Gidawom village under Mewang gewog in Thimphu took the mining companies to court over adverse impacts caused to their community, health, water, and properties. They were handed a judgment in their favour.

The dzongkhag court asked RSA Pvt Ltd, Taktshang, and Quality Stones and Aggregate to compensate the eight houses in Gidawom. The companies were asked to pay the households Nu 745,530 based on calculations by the works and human settlement ministry.

The main issue being contested in court is whether the July 21 blasting last year had caused cracks on the walls of 26 houses in the community, and breach of an internal agreement between the companies and the community on corporate social responsibility.

The mining companies’ lawyer Ugyen Dorji submitted that mining companies recorded impacts from the blastings at the mines using a seismic measurement from the Mangdechhu hydropower project but the reports were not considered by the lower courts.

The blasting took place on July 12 but it was reported only a week later. “If the cracks were caused by the blasts, then it should have been reported to authorities immediately,” Ugyen Dorji said.

A quarry belonging to Singye company is one of the longest operating mines in the area and he said that the community members had never raised any issue with the company despite being located above the villages.

One of the affected houses belongs to one of the judges in the High Court and he said   there was a conflict of interest. However, the judge did not sit on the case.

He said houses near the blast site suffered less damage than those farther away and were entitled to more compensation.

Blacktopping of the roads from the Gida bridge to quarry got stuck because it took time to get clearance. The lawyer said it was not that the companies did not want to carry out the works.

“There are land encroachment issues on blacktopping the road,” the lawyer submitted.

A villager submitted that her paddy yield has decreased after the quarries and mines opened in the area.

The villagers asked the Supreme Court to issue an injunction on the operation of the quarries and mines in the locality until it delivers the judgment.

Villagers said as the companies have fenced their areas, there is no space for their livestock to graze.

Tashi Tenzin