The government’s decision to amend the Mines and Minerals Act of 1995 is a welcomed decision. The out-dated Act is shrouded in controversy.
The decision is welcomed for so many reasons. From the deliberations in the Council, it can be derived that the old Act was benefiting only a handful of people, those in the mining sector. While the Constitution states that the rights over mineral resources, rivers, lakes and forest shall vest in the state and are properties of the state, it was found that the Act let only a few individual benefits from state resources.
The Act was recommended for amendment in the past. But like the eminent member to the council pointed out, the amendment was not taken up. From the concerns expressed by the Council, an apolitical body, the amendment of the Act was long overdue. It should have been taken up an urgent Bill.
Amending an Act, especially that governs state wealth and benefitting only a handful of people is sensitive. It is not going to be popular. The action of the government of the day could anger the big businesses men, especially in the mining sector.
It is surprising that the Act was not amended in the last two government’s term when the consequences of the out-dated Act was already known and presented to the Parliament.
The government’s decision to amend it is credible. It is not known what the provisions of the amended Act will say, but if it is going to curtail few people benefiting from state resources and let the benefit spread across the society, it should be welcomed.
Experts are pointing out that a few individuals in the mining sector are earning as much as 16,824 other Bhutanese. This could be because the Act is skewed toward those in the sector. We have in the past, seen people complaining of pollution and other ills of mining when the profits are gone in enriching a few individuals.
The Druk Nyarmrup Tshogpa is well placed to take the bold decision. It has come to power on the promise of narrowing the gap. The Council has presented the details of the inequalities people reap from natural resources, which belong to the state and the people of Bhutan.
The government is presented with an opportunity to keep up to their words of narrowing the gap by amending the Act. It may anger some sponsors, but Bhutanese of all generations will remember the government for taking such an unpopular move for the longer-term interest of the country and the people