Protracted by a lone provision

The sticking point between GNHC and DGM remains the screening tools to vet the policy

Mining Policy 6 October, 2011 – Differences between the Gross National Happiness (GNH) commission and geology and mines department on the mining policy has only caused it to further protract the process of its passage.

The policy will also have to be put through the GNH screening test.

This time the dispute was on a new provision that was incorporated in the draft policy, which would require an agency to carry out strategic environment assessment (SEA).

The need to carry out the assessment was one that the GNH commission had suggested and, consequently, the provision was incorporated during the drafting of the policy.

The question remained as to which agency would carry out the assessment though. Geology and mines director general Sonam Yangley said the department could not carry out such studies, since it had to be done at a national level, and by an agency that has a national influence.

The assessment would study all the sectors of the economy and different planned activities in a particular area of influence, and provide best methodologies to implement different activities in a cost effective way, and with minimum environment damage.

The study would also provide better directions to carrying out mining activities, avoid cost duplication, reduce environment impact, and suggest better options and alternatives.

Since carrying out such assessment, Sonam Yangley said, would require studying all the sectors, and that the geology and mines would focus only on the mining sector.

“It needs to be done at a national level,” he said. “It’d be important, especially in the mining sector, since it has a direct bearing on the environment and can also determine land use.”

When the policy was handed over to GNH commission for scrutiny, it was sent back with a changed version of the SEA.

“The provision within the SEA the commission drafted was unclear as to who should carry out the SEA studies,” geology and mines officials said. “Once the issue about the SEA is sorted out, the policy will go through the GNH screening test.”

Sonam Yangley said they had yet to hear from GNH commission officials. Meanwhile, geology and mines officials were skeptical about the tools applied in screening the policy, which they said were subjective, in that some of the tools were just not appropriate for a policy of such a kind.

“My concern isn’t about the mining policy failing to clear the test, but the exercise may pass some bad policies and reject good ones,” Sonam Yangley said, adding some of the tools applied in the exercise, and the way in which it was done could be subjective.

GNH commission officials, in the meantime, said they have still not specified who should carry out the SEA study. “Most probably, it should be carried out by an independent consultant, since such a study requires specialised skills,” a commission official said.

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