SONAM PENJOR | Thimphu
To streamline the overall application procedures for mining, transport permit generation, payment of mineral levies and enhance strict compliance monitoring of mines and quarries in the country, a web-based Mines and Administration System (MAS) was launched by the Minister for Economic Affairs, Lyonpo Loknath Sharma, on 23 November.
According to officials from the Department of Geology and Mines (DGM), MAS would provide a single window to lodge applications, track the status, and provide status reports to the applicants, and seek sectoral clearances from different stakeholders among others.
With this system in place, the service delivery to the general public and mining entrepreneurs would be enhanced.
The two-phase MAS was developed as a part of ICT initiatives of the 12 Five Year Plan. Phase I of the MAS – Mineral Information and Revenue Modules and Phase II of MAS – Mines Leasing and Compliance Monitoring Modules are developed through the funding support of World Bank and RGOB respectively.
During the launch, Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said the intention itself is good enough to say that we are moving towards 21st century and moving towards a better system.
Officials said most criticism is directed at the mining industry which is nothing new. Lyonpo claimed that because there are so many processes in this lucrative field, some of the procedures can leave them baffled.
“Even if the agency is trying to the best of its ability to maintain its integrity, there have been numerous rounds of collisions and numerous studies conducted in the past. These outside organizations include the Royal Audit Authority and the Anti-Corruption Commission,” Lyonpo said.
Lyonpo stated that although the system’s goal is a good one, it needs to be implemented as soon as possible. He further stated that the payment of taxes was one of the revenue leakages that needed to be addressed.
In a similar vein, mining-related revenue must also be able to be clearly linked very clearly, so that, we can determine it with certainty.
Lyonpo said the DGM must determine whether there is any discrepancy in the export, direct export revenue, and related taxes; if so, it must be possible to stop it all. “We cannot accept that there are revenue leaks and leakages are not anticipated.”
Lyonpo, however, insisted that the DGM was responsible for training people to utilize the system.
According to DGM director Phuntsho Namgyal, the development of MAS was motivated by the vision of His Majesty the King and the Royal Government of Bhutan’s initiative of ICT, digitization, and service delivery.
“This is primarily being done to track applications in a transparent manner and with a one-stop shop,” said Phuntsho Namgyal.
While presenting the MAS, the Officiating Chief of Mining Division, Chabilal Dhital said that despite the fact that the system was finished by a private consultant in the month of August last year and submitted to the department in May this year, he said the department needed to make some changes and incorporate a sizable amount of data.
Additionally, he stated that they needed to be made user-friendly with essential stakeholders including National Environment Commission Secretariat, National Land Commission Secretariat and Department of Law and Order among others within that time frame.
He said that the MAS will be able to pinpoint mineral resources’ potential and that candidates only need to click on the locations of mineral deposits.
The system will also check for site clashes if they have already been implemented.
According to Chabilal, applicants only need to upload in the system rather than print out a copy of the map and submit it to the DGM.
Meanwhile, Lyonpo also launched the “Geosciences and Mining Journal of Bhutan – Series 03”.
The journal is an annual series that started from 2020. The articles in the current series are contributed by professionals of DGM and cover a wide range of topics within the facet of geoscience and mining.