Exporters express the need to involve community in mining activities

Exporters who are engaged in the mining sector feel the importance of involving the community in mining activities in the country.

This was evident when the Member of Parliament’s economic affairs committee met with the Exporters Association of Bhutan (BEA) and the Association of Bhutanese Industries for suggestion and feedbacks on the Mines and Minerals Bill, 2020, which will be tabled during next year’s summer session of parliament for enactment.

 Mining companies say that due to disturbances from the mining activities through movements of trucks along the farm roads, noise and dust pollution, destruction of farm lands and water sources, communities are against mining in their area.

The new Mines and Minerals bill has included community engagement under Chapter 10 where they are entitled to numerous benefits through corporate social responsibility and socio economic benefit sharing. The bill has also empowered the community through formulation of Community Development Agreement for the leased mines and other infrastructures like medical facilities, road and water supply.

However, BEA still feels awarding more roles and responsibilities to communities will help them support mining activities more.

Without any legal framework mandating the mining companies to help the community, the communities do not have many gains. “They get nothing in return. That’s why they don’t want mines and quarries there,” a representative from BEA.

Also, under the agreement, the authority shall create and manage the Community Development Fund contributed by the mining companies to fund activities under the agreement. However, the exporters say that the community is kept outside the developing of agreement and managing the fund. It is therefore not expected to erase the issues faced by the communities.

BEA suggested that the committee include the community on board and involve in managing the fund and drafting the agreement forming a committee. It would be a tripartite meeting between the authority, proponent and the community discussing the benefits that they should be earning through mining companies. The representatives from the communities would also be empowered to exercise certain level playing field in the sectors. Involving the community is also expected to promote transparency in the fund management, according to BEA.

In the earlier Act, there was no clause on community involvement. There have been numerous incidences where the communities are against mining activities in their respective communities. They have reportedly sacrificed farmlands, drinking and irrigation water sources and farm roads to the mining companies without much gain. The mining sector alone contributed 4.22% to Gross Domestic Product in 2017. 

Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing