Empowers NECS on the renewal of the companies’ licenses

The Supreme Court (SC) upheld the Thimphu dzongkhag court’s judgment and asked the defendants, the four mining companies in Gida, to compensate Nu 748,530 to the eight households in Gidawom and Jamdo villages that suffered damages as a result of blasting at the mines yesterday.

The 29 villagers from Gidawom and Jamdo communities in Mewang gewog, Thimphu, took RSA Private Limited, Taktshang, Riverview, and Nortak mining companies to court over the adverse impacts on their health, water, and properties in August 2014.

After the 20-month trial that saw more than half a dozen witnesses and expert summoned and judicial investigations, the Thimphu dzongkhag court asked RSA Private Limited, Taktshang, and Riverview to compensate the eight houses in Gidawom.

Of the eight households, the worst affected house will receive Nu 285,981 and the least affected will receive Nu 18,036 for the damage.

The High Court upheld the dzongkhag court judgment when the defendants appealed in March last year.

The companies, as agreed in the two agreements signed with the community in 2011 and 2013, have to maintain the community’s clean and adequate water supply.

The SC judgment stated that mining companies have to black top and maintain the road that runs through the community as agreed in previous agreements with the community. However, the court ruled that the community has to avail necessary clearance from agencies as per the requirement of the laws for the purpose.

Adding to the lower court’s response to the villagers’ plea to shut down the companies, as they have adverse impacts on the communities, the SC ruled that they were established legally after availing public clearance from the villagers. “The villagers would not be able to pay compensation to the companies.”

The court asked the National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS) should investigate if there is any breach of the terms and conditions of the lease and other agreements or clearances signed when leasing the land for exploration.

The judgment stated that if the public refuses to issue clearance for the renewal of license of mining companies then NECS should verify if the company applying for the renewal had adhered to all the relevant laws and can decide whether or not to renew the license.

Tshering Palden