The government’s decision of handing over the Chunaikhola Dolomite Mine to the State Mining Corporation Ltd (SMCL) was commended by the National Council (NC) on Thursday.
Members of the Upper House pointed out various aspects of the decision are vested and in line with equity of share that the people of Bhutan deserve, which His Majesty The King has aforementioned, and it was reiterated by the NC Member from Haa, Ugyen Namgay, during the session.
The mining ownership was a topic deliberated on certain occasions prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and following Thursday’s decision, other NC Members of concurred with the decision stating that it falls in line with the manifesto of bridging the gap or narrowing the gap of the government.
NC Member Ugyen Namgay said that the Prime Minister’s pragmatism and thinking is for 7,00,000 people instead of a few companies or individuals were something that the NC should applaud to.
NC Member from Pemagatshel, Choining Dorji, stated that mining activities have a huge benefit to the local community other than revenue generation for the government. He added that looking at the high profit generated by SMCL from gypsum mining, the Upper House will take that into account for the Mines and Minerals Management (Amendment) Bill 2019 deliberation.
The first National Council had recommended the nationalization of mines.
The NC members, however, seem to have misunderstood that government’s move as being one of nationalizing the Chunaikhola as the MoEA Minister Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that the government has not taken such a decision and SMCL will operate it in the interim period.
He said that as far as the ministry is concerned it is not for nationalization of Chunaikhola as it is not a strategic mineral.
The SMCL’s performance was pointed out in the NC where SMCL earned a revenue of Nu 1.43 bn in 2019 with a Nu 336 mn profit.
The dividend income from SMCL saw a growth, from Nu 26.840 mn in 31 December 2018 to Nu 65 mn as of 31 December 2019.