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MoEA lifts moratorium on lease of mines

Puran Gurung

Recognizing mining as one of the five economic jewels of the country, the Ministry of Economic Affairs lifts moratorium on new applications for lease of mines through the newly adopted Mines and Minerals Management Regulations 2022 (MMMR 2022).

The ministry is also processing mining applications that has been put to hold, it will be processed in line with the new regulations.

Additionally, to enhance understanding on mineral resources endowment and drive new discoveries, regional geological mapping on a 1:50,000 scale is underway to map the remaining 50 percent of the country.

Earlier to adoption of Minerals Exploration Guidelines (2022), the Department of Geology and Mines (DGM) was the lone exploration body in the country.

With adoption of Minerals Exploration Guidelines (2022), all eligible individuals and firms can apply for the lease of mines or quarries as per the Mines and Minerals Management Act (1995) and the newly adopted Mines and Minerals Management Act (2022).

According to the Minerals Exploration Guidelines (2022), any Bhutanese citizen, proprietor of licensed firm or company shall be eligible to apply for the Exploration Permit and the DGM shall issue an Exploration Permit based on eligibility and requirements of MMMR 2022 and Minerals Exploration Guidelines (2022).

Further, the applicants will be eligible to obtain only two mining lease at any given instance and application for the lease of third time shall not be entertained. Additionally, application in the name of relatives, company employees and any other person shall be a breach of law and considered a fraud.

The applicant has operated the earlier mining leases satisfactorily and rated average and above in the performance evaluation of the mine operated, and they have not been disqualified to apply for mining lease by DGM or a court of law. The applicant has adequate financial resources, technical competence and experience to carry out the mining operations effectively.

Exploration shall be permitted in both SRF and private registered land according to the regulations. However, exploration within the private registered land shall be permitted upon submission of a written consent from the private registered landowner or any person in custody of such land by the applicant.

The maximum area permissible for exploration shall be up to three square kilometres. Additionally, proposal for any change in the demarcation of the permitted area must be submitted to DGM with reasons for approval.

In case of serious and imminent threat to human health or the environment caused by non-compliance to the Terms and Conditions of Exploration Permit or Clearances, upon receipt of the information of the suspension of any clearance required for the exploration from the concerned authorities; if the Exploration Permit Holder fails to comply with the notices issued by the DGM; or fails to submit a report as per section 33(9) and (10) of this Guidelines, the DGM will suspend the exploration permit. However, the DGM shall lift the suspension order upon obtaining valid clearances or compliance to the notification.

The DGM will also terminate the exploration permit if there is a breach of the terms and conditions of the Exploration Permit and EC or the provision(s) of MMMA 1995 and MMMR 2022; revocation of the Clearances by the concerned authority; or withdrawal of the Exploration Permit in the interest of Royal Government of Bhutan. Upon termination, the Exploration Permit Holder shall be required to fulfil the environmental restoration and other Terms and Conditions of this Guidelines, where relevant.

The RGoB shall pay reasonable compensation to the Exploration Permit Holder if the Exploration Permit is terminated in line with section 14(3) of the Guidelines, and the Exploration Permit Holder shall compensate for any accident resulting in the injury or death as per existing laws of the Kingdom.

Meanwhile, application for the lease of mine shall be entertained to only qualified applicant and the qualification shall be stringently verified to ensure responsible, scientific and environmentally cautious mining operation in the country.

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