Cabinet to pass Mining Act revisions

EXTENSIONS::The proposed amendment would remove a clause from the act that prevents authorities from rejecting mining license renewals under certain conditions

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Dec 07, 2017 - Page 1

A draft amendment to the Mining Act (礦業法) that the Cabinet is expected to approve today would require quarries to undergo environmental impact assessment and obtain the consent of local Aboriginal communities, an official said.

If passed by the Legislative Yuan, Asia Cement Corp’s (亞泥) controversial operations in Hualien would need to seek approval from environmental authorities.

The amendment, proposed by the Ministry of the Economic Affairs, has been drafted in line with the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act (原住民基本法), which stipulates that central and local governments or businesses planning to develop Aboriginal territories must seek the consent or participation of local Aboriginal communities and share the benefits with them.

Quarries that fail to comply with the proposed regulations would be suspended and their applications to develop new quarries would be rejected for non-compliance, according to the draft amendment.

The amendment would also require quarries that have not had any environmental assessments to undergo a makeup assessment, with different levels of environmental assessments set up in accordance with a quarry’s capacity, Bureau of Mines Deputy Director Chou Kuo-tung (周國棟) said.

Quarries covering more than 2 hectares with an annual capacity of 50,000 tonnes would be required to complete the makeup assessment within three years after the amendment takes effect, while smaller quarries have to complete the assessment within five years.

Based on the proposed amendment, one of Asia Cement’s quarries in Hualien County’s Sincheng Township (新城) would need to undergo an environmental review, but it would be exempted from Indigenous Peoples Basic Act regulations, because the Bureau of Mines in March extended Asia Cement’s mining rights for 20 years, Chou said.

The Sincheng quarry is at the center of a series of protests against the environmental effects of mining operations.

The protests have escalated following the death of documentary director Chi Po-lin (齊柏林), who was concerned about the negative impact of the Sincheng quarry on Taroko National Park.

The amendment would also remove a much-criticized clause from the Mining Act that prevents authorities from rejecting mining license renewals under certain conditions and requiring the government to compensate mining companies for rejecting renewal applications, which in effect has allowed most quarries to extend their mining rights.

To prevent overdevelopment, new mining licenses issued following the amendment would place a cap on the number of mining companies that are allowed to operate at a quarry at any given time.

The proposed amendment is expected to be approved at a Cabinet meeting today and forwarded to the Legislative Yuan for review.