English | Dzongkha Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Villagers cry foul over SMCL’s open bidding for Tshophangma coal mining

Jan 27, 2021

People from the gewogs of Phuentshothang, Pemathang, Samrang and Martshala in Samdrup Jongkhar are crying foul over the State Mining Corporation Limited’s (SMCL) decision of floating open tender on the hiring of earthmoving equipment for the Tshophangma coal mining at Martshala Gewog.

According to them, SMCL has committed to hiring the earthmoving equipment for the Tshophangma coal mining from the community once the present contract expires in February 2021.

However, SMCL floated open bidding to interested eligible hiring agents and contractors on 14th January.

People in these gewogs say they have proposed for outsourcing earth moving equipment like excavator, dumper trucks, and payloaders among others for the Tshophangma and Habrang coal mines to the SMCL through Samdrupchhoeling Dungkhag Administration on 28th November 2019. The SMCL also acknowledged the proposal and wrote to the communities on 12 June 2020 stating that they will be given an opportunity to participate in the project once the present contract expires.

Thrilled with the response, they started preparing to take part in the mining business. Formation of a legal entity and framing of bylaws to meet the criteria kicked off and gave birth to the ‘Pemi Dejung Kuenphen Private Limited.’ The company floated shares and about Nu 30 M was collected from around 3,900 shareholders. 

“We are ready to buy machinery and all, we submitted our readiness to the government and they never replied to us and they announced on tendering Tshophangma coal mine to interested bidders, now we are not happy with the decision,” said Tshering Duba, a shareholder and a committee member of the company.

“We were happy to know that opportunity will be given to us and we purchase shares and now they say it will be tender, so now we are worried,” added  Wangpo, a shareholder from Phuentshothang Gewog.

However, according to an official from the SMCL, Pemi Dejung Kuenphen Private Limited failed to fulfil the requirements and conditions. The official says local communities are supposed to collect Nu 189 M for procuring machinery but they collected only Nu 30 M, and without enough money, it is not possible to buy the machinery to run the mines.

The SMCL also issued a letter to Pemi Dejung Kuenpen Private Limited asking to furnish the certified assurance for Nu 189 M as the first tranche of the financial resource by December 2020.

Refuting this claim, Pemi Dejung Kuenphen Private Limited says the Nu 189 M was just an estimated amount and they could not collect it due to the second nationwide lockdown as villagers were not able to buy shares since their cash crops are still not sold. The company also says the balance amount can be topped up by bank loans on procuring machinery and Letter of credit facility from the machinery companies.

“We never committed to collect Nu 189 M, we just estimated that we would be able to collect about Nu 189 M from shares by looking at the size of population and all. We have not assure to collect that amount, we just expected to collect it,” said Tshering Duba.

Meanwhile, local leaders of the four gewogs have also written a letter to the SMCL to withdraw the tender call for Tshophangma coal mine.

Kinley Wangchuk, Samdrup Jongkhar

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