Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
Unhappy with the rate revision, local transporters with the Chunnaikhola Dolomite Mines of the State Mining Corporation Limited (SMCL) in Gomtu, Samtse stopped transporting materials on May 9.
Over 40 local transporters are demanding a better hike—at least 30 to 40 percent increase.
Due to the increase in fuel price, transporters have recently asked the SMCL management for a rate hike. Eventually, the rate was revised on May 3. However, transporters say this increase is just about 8 to 10 percent, which is too minimal in comparison to the 100 percent increase in fuel price.
SMCL increased the rate to Nu 21.62 per metric tonne (MT) for the 1.3km route. The previous rate was Nu 20.80 per MT.
For the 1.5km distance, the rate was revised to Nu 23.90 per MT from the previous Nu 22.98.
These distances are between SMCL’s Chunnaikhola mining site and the stockyard at Lhamokhola in Gomtu.
Before SMCL took over the mining from the private company, Jigme Mining, transporters said they were paid Nu 23 and Nu 27 per MT respectively for 1.3km and 1.5km. The fuel price was around Nu 50 per litre then. Today, the price has touched Nu 106.66 a litre in Gomtu.
One transporter said the price of the oil has increased so high but the rate has not changed much.
“We have written to them asking for a rate hike. We have told SMCL we will not start work,” he said, adding that the recent increase did not help them.
Considering 15 trips of 25MT each by one 10-wheeler and the current fuel price, transporters say they spend more than what they earn. With other expenditures such as driver salary of Nu 20,000, renewal and insurance, tyres, and maintenance, the transporters claimed they are running at loss.
They say they are not able to repay their loan amounts to the banks.
Another transporter said SMCL revised the rate with the fuel base price of March 2, 2022.
“But we have been appealing to them even before this. When we started working in November 2020, the fuel price was Nu 50.90. The price has doubled now. They have to consider the increased amount.”
SMCL requests Gomtu gewog office to intervene
SMCL management has written to the Gomtu gewog office.
The letter said that local transporters have “called on a strike and stopped transporting boulders from mines and crushed products from the screen plant to Lhamokhola stockyard.”
It said that transportation work was not outsourced to interested parties outside of Gomtu to provide opportunities to the local community on a “broad-based benefit” sharing model. The local transporters, SMCL management said, have executed a strike after having provided two successive rate increases on March 17 and May 3.
The SMCL management has asked the gewog office to advise the transporters to either resume the transportation immediately. The letter said that transporters can individually submit a letter to express their interest to withdraw from working with SMCL.
“We cannot wait for transporters to take their own time to decide on the transportation work with us as we have a huge production target to accomplish and are answerable to the government in case of failure.”
“In case of any undesirable consequences to any individual failing to respond to our request within the stipulated time, the management of SMCL shall not be held responsible and accountable as it may lead to cancellation (termination) of transportation work with the company permanently.”