Canada’s mining industry steps towards publishing what it pays – by Stella Dawson (Thomson Reuters Foundation – June 11, 2013)

WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Canadian mining companies have reached a draft agreement to disclose what they pay to governments for the right to extract gold, coal and other minerals, anti-poverty activists and an industry group said.

The agreement, due for release later this week once final details have been ironed out, would be a major expansion of transparency in the extractive industries and would start to bring Canada into line with standards now taking shape in the United States and the European Union.

“Three-quarters of all transactions in the mining sector have occurred in Canada. If you want to capture transactions, the Canadian market is essential,” said Andrew Bauer, economic analyst at Revenue Watch Institute, one of the parties in the talks.

Campaigners say requiring companies to reveal what they pay governments in the oil, gas and mining sectors will increase accountability for how natural resource wealth is used by countries and will help combat corruption. About 3.5 billion people live in resource-rich countries worldwide, yet many are desperately poor, too often because government officials siphon off resource money into personal accounts.

Financial transparency is high on the agenda for G8 leaders from major industrial countries meeting next week in Northern Ireland as a way to tackle poverty in times of constrained development aid budgets.

Canada’s tentative agreement comes a few days before a vote in the EU parliament, expected on Wednesday, on its extractive industry transparency law. The United States already has adopted regulations for any oil, gas and mining company with publicly listed securities to disclose their government payments starting in 2014, though the petroleum industry is leading a challenge to the law in court.

Ben Chalmers, vice president of sustainable development at the Mining Association of Canada, which is party to the pact, said it made “good business sense” for the Canadian industry to align itself with transparency and good governance.

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