Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) on Wednesday confronted Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花) and DPP colleagues Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) and Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) over a draft amendment to the Mining Act (礦業法) that would allow companies to indefinitely continue their operations at quarries.
The altercation broke out during a legislative committee review of Article 31 of the act, which stipulates that the Bureau of Mines should not reject requests to extend mining permits in a quarry if the requests are filed by companies that already have permits to operate in that quarry.
Lin proposed amending the rule to require companies that obtained mining permits before the promulgation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (環境影響評估法) to pass an environmental review before their mining rights could be extended.
The Mining Act was ratified in 1930, while the Environmental Impact Assessment Act came into effect in 1993.
Wang said she did not understand Lin’s proposal, as existing rules already require mining companies to conduct safety reviews, as well as take environmental and soil and water conservation measures before applying for an extension of their permits.
Lin then accused Wang of “siding with mining companies.”
“Based on your logic, environmental impact assessments and reviews of mining sites could be skipped, since you believe mining companies would exercise self-governance,” Lin said.
She added that only three of the nation’s 202 quarries have been approved by the Ministry of the Interior, and the Cabinet’s proposal would require only new quarries to be reviewed.
“Yet, existing quarries are exactly where our mountains and forests are being gutted,” Lin said.
The purpose of reviewing mining areas would be to ensure that mining companies have obtained landowners’ consent and avoided environmentally vulnerable zones, Lin said, asking: “What is there to be afraid of?”
“I urge all officials here today to look past [Lin’s] fierce remarks,” Kuan said.
Lin said her criticism was directed at Wang, who “sounded exactly the same as Asia Cement Corp.”
She and Wang then engaged in a loud altercation, prompting DPP Legislator Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬) to call a 10-minute break.
“The amendment is meant to bring about reform, not protection,” Lin said, triggering a response from Chiu, who said everyone at the meeting was pushing for reforms.
Chiu accused Lin of “siding with environmentalists to insult DPP lawmakers.”
Lin later on Facebook asked Chiu to explain what she meant by the comment and whether she was referring to her collaborations with Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan, which on Monday accused 44 lawmakers of accepting donations from concrete mixing companies.
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