The upcoming Mining Bill will not just be any ordinary bill, but it will dictate the future of mining sector by focusing on mine ownership, allocation of mines, regulation of mines, levies and tax systems, community benefit sharing, environmental impact mitigation and more.
However, the most important decision for the government to make, will be the ownership of the mines as billions in mineral wealth will be at stake.
On the one hand, there is DHI arguing for access to mines and strategic minerals on the basis of the Constitution declaring that mineral wealth are properties of the state.
On the other hand, the private mining companies want to continue with private ownership of mining companies.
The government, so far, has taken a largely neutral stance on the issue, but it will have to spell out its stance in the Mining Bill.
The current state of the mining sector does not inspire confidence- with a series of ACC, RAA and other reports pointing out corruption, non payment of taxes, notional losses, collusion, no proper regulation and negative impacts on local communities and the environment.
Wealth has also been concentrated in a few hands with owners even cheating public shareholders out of their dividends.
It is no surprise that there is a strong call for state control of mines both within the NC and also outside Parliament. The feeling had reached such a level that even mineral rich Samtse Dzongkhag passed a resolution against new mines.
The mining sector has to realize that, if it has to have any future, then it must subject itself to regulations, practice scientific mining and spread the wealth around.
The government has already made it clear that it wants the private sector to take the lead in the mining industry.
However, the government must be careful to ensure that certain highly valuable minerals stay within the control of the government.
It must also ensure that both it and the public gets a greater share of the mines and that mining companies don’t get away with cheating the system.
The government must strengthen monitoring and ensure that the social and environmental impacts are limited.
The meek shall inherit the Earth, but not its mineral rights.
J. Paul Getty