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Amendments to overhaul Mining Act clear Legislature

05/27/2023 09:05 PM
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A Taiwan Cement mine in Hualien. CNA file photo
A Taiwan Cement mine in Hualien. CNA file photo

Taipei, May 27 (CNA) A bill to radically amend the Mining Act, including granting local Indigenous people a say on nearby mining activities, and removing provisions long criticized as skewing in the favor of mining businesses passed the Legislature on Friday.

The amendment bill cleared the legislative floor without opposition late Friday night, after more than six years of efforts from lawmakers and environmentalists in pushing for reform.

The bill stipulates mining companies must obtain the consent of local Indigenous peoples before starting any new projects on designated Indigenous land, in accordance with the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law.

Mining firms that have already acquired an extraction permit on these lands without the approval of Indigenous residents will be granted one year to conduct negotiations with them and seek their consent, the bill states.

The Bureau of Mines says the companies will be allowed to continue mining during negotiations, but if they fail to acquire approval within a year, they will be ordered to suspend operations.

According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), 79 of the total 139 mining sites in Taiwan are located on Indigenous land. Only 13 have so far obtained the approval of the local Indigenous community.

The bill also includes retrospective provisions stipulating that "large mining projects" will be subject to a rigorous review to ascertain likely environmental impacts, in accordance with Article 5 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act.

A "large mining project" is defined as a mine in excess of two hectares in size, that has produced more than 50,000 tons of ore on average every year over the past five years, the bill states.

MOEA data shows eight large mines will be subjected to the environmental impact assessment, while 31 smaller mining projects will be required to conduct a less rigorous review process based on Article 28 of the same Act.

Lawmakers also addressed contentious provisions in the Mining Act that had long been criticized by environmental groups as serving the interests of mining companies.

One example is Article 47, which gave mineral rights holders the right to commence mining projects, even if they fail to obtain consent from landowners to use the land, as long as they have deposited necessary funding to compensate them.

This article, as well as Article 31 which entitles mine developers to claim compensation for losses incurred if a license renewal is denied, will be removed.

Another major change mandates authorities to place limits on mining activities, for example capping the amount of ore extraction in each project. Companies that reach such limits will be required to re-apply for mining permission, even if their license has not expired, the bill states.

Later the same day, Citizen of the Earth (CET), an environmental group that has lobbied for the reforms for years, issued a press release commending the amendments.

The group said it had never sought to bring down the mining industry in Taiwan, but instead had been working to "correct" the existing law that has "tilted heavily in favor of the industry."

Only when the negative impact of mining activity on the environment is reduced, and the rights of nearby residents are ensured, can the industry shed its notorious reputation in Taiwanese society, the group added.

Meanwhile, a legislator from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬), who first sponsored an amendment bill in 2017, lauded the success in pushing for the most significant reforms in mining in two decades.

The bill, she said, would allow for better governance of mining in Taiwan, the fair development of the industry and environmental sustainability.

(By Teng Pei-ju)


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