NA turns down NC’s recommendation of handing over the mining work to SMCL

In the interest of the private sector development for economic growth

The National Assembly (NA) on 16 June declined the National Council’s (NC) recommendation on handing over the mines to the State Mining Corporation Limited (SMCL) until a new Mines and Minerals Act was enacted.

Apart from the Home Minister and Dramitse Ngatshang MP, majority of the MPs voted against the NC’s recommendation, in the interest of the private sector being the key for economic development.

Most MPs said it would be ideal to hand over the mines to the private sector as it has proven to be efficient.

Phuentshopelri Samtse constituency MP, Ganesh Ghimiray, said that other than the strategic mines, it would be more ideal and effective if the private sector took over the non-strategic mines.

Economic Affairs Minister, Loknath Sharma, said that it was important to continue the mines and minerals works from an economic standpoint as it would be one of the resurgent factors in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lyonpo added that currently SMCL does not have the capacity, in terms of manpower and other determinant factors, to carry out all the work.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said, “During the infrastructure works, there might be avenues for smaller mines and quarries to work on as well,” and added that it would contribute to employment.

According to Lyonpo, SMCL has also concluded that they would not be able to carry out all the works at their current capacity. SMCL is already carrying out works in 3 major mines extracting coal, dolomite and gypsum.

Lyonpo added that until the new Mines and Minerals Act is enacted, the government would continue to allow private participation, as per the Mines and Mineral Management Act 1995.  Bomdeling Jamkhar MP, Duptho, said that it would not be ideal to handover the mine to SMCL temporarily, as the project is really big. He said just to setup the infrastructure for the initial work will amount to a lot of expenditure.

Gangzur Minjey MP, Kinga Penjor, also agreed with MP Duptho’s suggestion to the House.

A reference of Jigme Mining Corporation was cited by the Panbang MP, Dorji Wangdi, in which the company had paid Nu 194 million (mn) in 2017 and Nu 235 mn in 2018 in the form of tax alone, apart from royalties and fees.

He presented another report where the Eastern Coal Company had paid taxes of Nu 205 mn in 2017 and Nu 180 mn in 2019, and he said that the private sector efforts should also be equally appreciated.

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