Update, June 2014: MPRM told La'o Hamutuk that they have changed their plans, and there will NOT be any public consultation on this law in Dili. They expect to send it to the Council of Ministers soon.
Timor-Leste's Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources (MPRM) has been talking with people around the country about a proposed law and code to license and regulate mining operations in the country. The first consultation was in Oecusse on 26 August, and another will take place in Suai on 25 September. La'o Hamutuk is circulating the draft law through this posting, and we encourage people to study it and offer suggestions.
Mining operations create problems for people all over the world. Although they may provide income for governments and transnational companies, they often result in environmental destruction; displacement; pollution of land, air and water; human rights violations; conflict; war and other devastating consequences for people living near or downstream from the mines.
Experience shows that effective regulation is essential (although not always sufficient) to reduce damage and protect people's rights. Given the intrinsic non-sustainability of mining activities (which use up non-renewable mineral resources in order to provide cash), it is always challenging to minimize their negative impacts. We hope that effective public consultation -- together with the willingness of the Government and Parliament to listen -- can help Timor-Leste enact legislation which will protect our people's short- and long-term interests.
|In November 2008, the State Secretariat for Natural Resources created an|
association of Timor-Leste's traditional leaders (lia nain) who symbolically
handed over the right to explore for minerals to Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.
MPRM has not yet asked for written submissions, and we hope that they will consider input from knowledgeable people, especially those who have experience with mining operations. The risks are too high to ignore lessons already learned all over the world. La'o Hamutuk welcomes comments and suggestions to improve the submission we will write (please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org), and we encourage people and organizations to send their own comments to Minister Alfredo Pires. La'o Hamutuk is happy to web-publish any submissions and analyses which are shared with us.
The preamble to the draft law reads as follows:
The regulation of the activities pertaining to the carrying out of Mineral Operations, including the prospecting, exploring, evaluating, processing, mining and marketing of minerals is of the utmost importance to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. These activities can have a major impact in securing the supply of materials needed for the development, economic growth and prosperity of the country.
The existing rudimentary legal framework needs to be urgently replaced, and a new set of rules put in place for the purposes of regulating the carrying out of Mineral Operations and other forms of exploration that involve the use of industrial facilities, as well as for the purposes of regulating the sale of minerals in both the domestic and international markets.
Therefore, with the approval of this Law, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste moves forward in the setting up of a modern regulatory legal framework, providing the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources with an integrated framework for the effective regulation of authorizations for prospecting and mining operations in the country, including the administrative procedural rules for the granting of licenses and permits to entities and legal persons wishing to carry on said operations, the definition of concession areas, the rights and obligations of all parties involved, as well as the rules on inspection and supervision of Mineral Operations, the sanctions and penalties applicable in case of non-compliance with the duties set forth herein and specific rules pertaining to the protection of the environment and to payment of taxes related thereto.
With the above in mind, the purpose of this Law is to encourage and facilitate the discovery and development of mineral resources in Timor-Leste, having regard to the need of encouraging ecologically sustainable development, and in particular, to recognize and foster the significant social and economic benefits to the country that may result from the efficient development of mineral resources and to ensure an appropriate return to the State from exploitation of the same.La'o Hamutuk hopes that the enacted version of this long and complex Code will prioritize its goal of "ecologically sustainable development" over the desire to hastily convert mineral wealth into cash.