Crushing stone

Obviously wrong

Earlier this year, in “Mining our business”, I’d explained why it would be unlawful for the government to permit L&T, Gammon and HCC to operate stone quarries for the Punatshangchhu hydropower project.

I don’t know for sure, but it looks like L&T, Gammon and HCC are now not operating the stone quarries. That is very good.

But what I do know for sure is that L&T, Gammon and HCC have each established stone crushing plants. That is bad. And that is illegal.

Stone crushing is a specific business, one that requires a separate industrial license, and one that is not open for foreign direct investment. Added to that, the lucrative business is surely outside the scope of the construction contract packages that L&T, Gammon and HCC have with the Punatsangchhu hydropower project.

So why have they been allowed to establish their own stone crushing plants?

I’ve written to the minister for economic affairs alerting him that the plants in question may be unlawful.

Mining our business

Most of the work at the Punatsangchu hydropower project, estimated to cost more than Nu 36 billion, is being contracted out to large Indian companies. And rightfully so. After all, we still don’t have enough in-house capacity to dig tunnels, erect dams and build powerhouses.

But mining? For stone? Now that, I’m sure we can all agree, is something we are good at!

Then why is the government allowing Indian companies – L&T, HCC and Gammon – to operate stone quarries for the Punatsangchu hydropower project?

And how will L&T, HCC and Gammon operate their mines when the Mines and Minerals Management Regulations 2002 clearly defines the eligibility to obtain a mining lease as:

Any Bhutanese individual, licensed firm or a company shall be eligible to obtain a mining lease.

To be doubly sure that only Bhutanese companies operate our mines, the Mines and Minerals Management Regulations goes on to define “company” as:

Any organization registered under the Companies Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2000.

I’ve reported the matter to the Anticorruption Commission.