The undeliberated Mines and Minerals Bills (MMB) 2021 will not be tabled during the upcoming parliament session, according to the members of National Council.
In the last two years, deliberations of the MMB had been deferred many times in both the National Assembly and National Council following several meetings of the joint committee.
The Deputy Chairperson of National Council and Member of Parliament of Samdrup Jongkhar, Jigme Wangchuk said, “The Mines and Minerals Bills will be not discussed during this summer Session of Parliament as it is not included in the agenda. It will only be discussed if it is put forward by the National Assembly.
The Deputy Chairperson said that the mandate of the National Council is to maintain check and balance in the legislation of the government being an apolitical House.
He said that with no political motivation, the House has to review the Bills in the larger interest of public and the nation.
The Mines and Minerals Management Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan (MMMA) and the Forest and Nature Conservation Act of Bhutan (FNCA) both enacted in 1995 have conflicting clauses, giving dual authority and responsibility to the forests department and the Department of Geology and Mines (DGM).
The National Assembly or the government initially wanted the State to operate strategic mines and auction non-strategic mines to the private sector. There was also a proposal to divest up to 49 percent to private shareholders.
The National Council stand to uphold the Constitution and ensuring that wealth from the mining sector benefits the people of Bhutan. Article 1.12 of the Constitution, which the NC refers to, vests ownership of the mineral resources in the State.
To prove their stance, the National Council highlighted a Royal Audit Authority (RAA) report which pointed out that the mining business in Bhutan is under the grasp of elites, which studies have proved that inequalities are growing in the country.