Villagers veto private mine

Mining: After several discussions and almost a four-hour public consultation meeting, villagers of Nangkor, Pemagatshel refused to allow private mining below the village.

Only six villagers gave “Yes” votes; 53 voted “No”.

The villagers said that, while they understand that mining would contribute to the economy of the country, they were concerned about the future of the environment and people in the village.  Khotakpa gypsum mine in Shumar gewog has done significant environmental damage, say the farmers.

The villagers refused to allow mining in the village because of damage it might do to two schools, about 89 of the 252 households in the village, a BPC power stations, and RNR centre.

“We were promised same economic benefits some three decades ago when gypsum mining was first proposed. We cannot let this happen again,” a villager said.

“Ultimately, mining benefits only an individual. There is nothing for the community,” Ugyen Tshering, 58, said. “Destruction will be huge. We’ve seen how over the years mining has literally killed mandarin production in the area. Water sources have dried.”

Villagers say that mining activities have affected the new Pemagatshel Dzong in Denchi.

Tshogpa Deki Lhamo said that the present gypsum mining in Khothakpa is proof enough for farmers to not allow new mining in Nangkor.

“We had to relocate about 14 households in Khotakpa when the mine came. If mine comes in Nangkor, we may have to relocate 89 households. That’s very difficult,” Shumar gup Lepo said.

The dzongkhag’s environment officer Chimmi Wangchuk said the investor would have to conduct a feasibility study and justify that the mining will not affect the village and the people.

“Nothing has been decided yet,” Chimmi Wangchuk said.

Tharchen, who proposed to start the mine in the village, said that a detailed study would be carried out.

By Yangchen C Rinzin,  Samdrupjongkhar 

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