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NA proposes forming a Joint Committee to discuss the Mines and Minerals Bill of Bhutan 2020

Dec 12, 2020

The  National Assembly today through a majority show of hands endorsed the proposal to form a joint committee to discuss the Mines and Minerals Bill of Bhutan 2020. The decision came after two Houses couldn’t agree on the very principle of the Bill. The National Assembly’s Economic and Finance Committee said the National Council changed all the recommended sections including the preamble proposed by the National Assembly.

The National Assembly in the last session recommended that the Bill gives equal rights to the private sector, government and the community through broad-based ownership. However, a few of the National Assembly members said that the National Council recommended the giving rights only to the State-Owned Enterprises thereby making the section invalid.

“We said that the private sector should get opportunities too. Moreover, we discussed that the Bill should give broad-based ownership through share. That was our objective but the National Council struck all the sections,” said Ganesh Ghimiray, the Phuentshogpelri Samtse’s Member of Parliament (MP).

“It took quite a days to discuss this. The National Council made and sent us changes on the Bill which are bulky. They didn’t agree with the recommendations we sent them last year. From our side, we have respect for them. They might have also discussed it thoroughly. But changing the recommendations that we sent them, it was not even one or two, but the whole sections, I feel like they don’t have respect for us. What we aimed was to give the broad-based right to everyone, be it private sector or government,” said Jurmi Wangchuk, the Drukjegang Tseza’s MP

Majority of the parliamentarians, therefore, suggested the House form a joint committee to discuss the disputed section.

“While discussing this Bill today here, it seems like most sections which look after the community’s benefit have also gone invalid. I have a big concern about this. Even if the responsibility is taken by the government or by the private sector, it should be the community benefitting from it. I would recommend forming a joint committee to discuss this,” said Dawa, the Chhoekhor Tang’s MP.

“We included the three sections firstly, to make the economy stronger, secondly to give equal opportunities and thirdly to sustain. In the Bill, we didn’t mention that the government can’t do at all, we said strategic mineral should be taken over by the government. But if the government is not able to take over then the private sector can come in. The main recommendation coming from the council is on section 18. Earlier the National Assembly recommended that section 18 should include government, private and community but the council just mentioned State-Owned Enterprise there. The very principle that matters is invalid now,” said Passang Dorji (PhD), the Bartsham Shongphu’s MP.

The National Council previously passed the Bill stating that the Mines and Minerals lease should be given to a State-Owned Enterprise. The council during the discussion said although the mines and minerals are given to the state, surface collection and quarrying, use of machines will be given to the private sector, therefore keeping the door open for private sectors as well.

Samten Dolkar

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