by Lina Holguin
Today, mining companies and civil society organizations came together to ask the Government of Canada to establish strong rules on mandatory reporting of payments made by Canadian extractive companies to governments.
Despite the huge sums of money involved in oil, mineral and gas mining, over 1.5 billion people in natural resource rich countries live on less than $2 a day. However, revenues generated by extractive industries can be used to reduce poverty. To achieve this, developing countries must get their fair share of benefits generated by natural resources in their territories and use the corresponding revenue to finance public poverty-reduction programs.
Transparency is an essential tool to ensure that citizens of resource-rich countries benefit from the minerals in their soil. It provides a key platform to fight against corruption and leads to better and more responsible management of natural resources. Transparency of payments by extractive industries to governments is a necessary first step.
In June 2013, the Canadian government announced its intention to establish new mandatory reporting standards for payments made by Canadian extractive companies to governments. Civil society, including Oxfam, and the Canadian mining industry welcomed the announcement.
In September 2012, the Resource Revenue Transparency Working Group was established by the coalition Publish What You Pay Canada, in which Oxfam is a member, the Revenue Watch Institute, the Mining Association and the Prospectors and Developers association of Canada. The latter two associations represent more than 1,300 companies, including some of the largest mining companies in the world.
The Resource Revenue Transparency Working Group presented today its recommendations to the Canadian Government on reporting standards for payments made by Canadian mining companies to governments. The adoption of these recommendations by the Government of Canada, as well as by provinces, is essential to achieving greater transparency in the extractive industry globally, as Canada has the highest number of established mining companies in the world. The United States and the European Union have already adopted mandatory reporting standards. The time has come for Canada to do the same.
Canadian mining associations consider that transparency is good for business. For Oxfam, transparency in the payments made by extractive industries to governments will allow civil society and parliamentarians from developing countries to challenge their governments on the use of these resources and to ensure their proper management for the development of their country. Taxes, royalties and other payments that poor countries receive from extractive industries should be invested in economic and social development. Mandatory reporting should allow citizens in developing countries to access all the necessary information to hold their government accountable.
We urge Canada to take note of the recommendations from the mining industry and members of civil society on the mandatory publication of payments to States. But above that, Canada should also hear the voices of communities from the Global South that are currently denied access to the wealth extracted from their own countries.
Lina Holguin is Oxfam-Québec Policy Director