The death of a community’s dream

The community had intended to work with State Mining Corporation Limited in coal mining operations in Habrang and Tshophangma once the contract term of the contractor concluded in February this year

The community of Samdrupcholing is running from pillar to post after SMCL refused to offer mining works to them

Sonam Penjor 

The Samdrupcholing Community in Samdrupjongkhar, which was formed by the community to own a mine, has now fallen in tatters.

The community had intended to work with State Mining Corporation Limited (SMCL) in coal mining operations once the contract term of the contractor concluded in February this year. However, despite channelizing all their efforts, the enterprise has not materialized due to immeasurable obligations.

Having seen lots of mining operations for the last eight decades, they ventured into the trade hoping to reap huge benefits but none of the projects proved to be a boon to the locality.

According to the press release from the Pemi Dejung Kuenphen Pvt. Ltd, the business venture had turned out to be a big flop and is still reeling under loses. 

The concern was proposed to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SMCL through Drungkhag Administration as an issue of concern; however, no concrete solution was reached.

In response, SMCL states that a consultation meeting was held on 13th January 2020 by the CEO of SMCL urging the public to participate in mining operations. “Assured of a green signal, the community received a written advice from the CEO addressing the Drungpa with copies to Dzongdag and four Gewog Gups stating that public would be given an opportunity to participate in the coal mining project once the present contract concluded in February 2021.

When the CEO highlighted the importance of taking part in mining operations of coal, the community was enlightened and stimulated to prepare its own charter and bylaws with the formation of a legal entity to procure Earth Moving Equipments (EMEs) that SMCL would hire.

“Keeping the CEO’s advice in mind, the steering committee immediately reformed and started preparing policies and strategic action plans for the creation of a legal entity, framing bylaws and working modalities to fulfill the criteria,” the organization stated.  

The press release further added that a legal entity of Pemi Dejung Kuenphen limited by shares was formed comprising 4,184 shareholders from 1,715 households of 73 villages in 20 chiwogs of four gewogs of Martshala, Pemathang, Phuntshothang and Samrang with total equity share collections of more than Nu 35-million (m).

The Covid-19 epidemic however hampered the working progress damaging the atmosphere provided by SMCL following nationwide lockdown in September last year. Due to movement restrictions, many important works were suspended, no meetings could be held delaying every document to collapse with exhaustion of timeline leading to failure.

Nonetheless, the management of SMCL in Samtse had extended the timeline for the community to get the documentation ready by 31 October last year.

Before the deadline, the community had then informed their readiness of documents to SMCL CEO whereby he signaled for share collections from the public urging steering committee to be ready by December last year.

Thereafter, the community began with meetings of four Gewog gups and formation of a steering committee at the Gewog Yargay Tshogde hall of Phuntshothang to work hand in hand with SMCL for benefit of the general public of Martshala, Pemathang, Phuntshothang and Samrang.

While public shares were floated, with constant restrictions of movement, the community could not achieve some of the mandates in the stipulated deadline of December last year. Nonetheless, the SMCL granted time extension until 22 March this year upon recommendations of the Prime Minister.

To meet the requirements, the release states, immediate quotations were called from registered machinery dealers from within Bhutan whereby TCD Pvt. Ltd. in Thimphu was offered the winner for being a quality and competent facility provider as stated in quotation documents.

TCD Pvt. Ltd. proved to be very efficient, competent and successful in every deal of EMEs delivery on time. With full trust, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed for assurances and for swift delivery, purchase order was placed by releasing an advance payment of Nu 20-m.

However, no machinery arrived on time prompting the SMCL CEO to terminate the contract, killing the sentiments of the entire public of Samdrupcholing Dungkhag added the press release.

The community was unhappy to accept the termination as it was a pity for the public crying for intervention in these destitute times. The community had also requested for one more reconsideration through Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to CEO and Chairman of Druk Holding and Investments (DHI) since the failure came unexpected after making advance payment of 20-m to the dealer.

“It was awful to blame neither the community nor the dealer for failure, yet it is significant to relook and reconsider the complexity of the era of Covid-19 that came unexpectedly damaging the entire plan,” the press release stated.

It further said it was a complete disappointment for the public who cannot accept to die as shares were collected after receiving green signal from SMCL.

“The community is still hopeful that SMCL will not let down the public but go for compassionate solutions. The expectations didn’t die but grew higher seeking justified equality and weight measurement of the community,” it stated.

Meanwhile, during the meet the press on 9 July, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that  the office the prime minister had received an appeal from the public for another extension, however, Lyonchhen said that despite extending the timeline, they could not fulfil the conditions that was already agreed upon which includes number and types of truck and machineries.

Lyonchhen further said that they had received similar appeal before and added that the matter was discussed informally with DHI. However, he said, DHI denied as it was the third time that they are caught up with the same issue as it would hamper the business.

Lyonchhen said that the government has nothing to do since the SMCL has already called for a re-tender.