Mining News

New steps proposed for greater transparency between mining companies and Aboriginals

Posted by Alana Wilson on 3/24/2014 1:33:27 PM

By Alana Wilson

Claudia Cattaneo had a very interesting piece in the Financial Post on increased transparency in the dealings between aboriginal communities and developers of natural resources. Steps are already being taken by the federal government to increase transparency in payments received by different levels of government at the international level. Cattaneo notes that Ottawa is looking to extend this transparency further to force annual disclosure of payments worth $100,000 or more including those made by oil and gas and mining companies to aboriginal communities, domestically and abroad. She notes that

“greater transparency would promote better practices, increased accountability, set ground rules and inform the public debate around the impacts of resource extraction on Canada’s aboriginal people.”

The mining industry, represented by the Resource Revenue Transparency Working group, is in favour of mandatory disclosure but did not include payments to aboriginal governments in their recently released recommendations.

“Secret payments and lack of clarity around who benefits from resource extraction breeds mistrust between communities, governments and companies, generating unstable business environments, threatening the security of supply, and even, in extreme cases, contributing to violent conflict,” the group said.

However Cattaneo notes that the move to greater disclosure is drawing push-back from the oil industry with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers supporting requirements of payments to foreign governments but not to sub-federal entities such as aboriginal communities. The oil and gas sector is noted to have more focus on domestic projects that the mining sector, which works mostly internationally, and the additional reporting requirements could put it at a disadvantage relative to US competitors.

Pushback was also noted by aboriginal communities themselves. Some policy considerations discussed were the potential of such disclosure to change the narrative around First Nations and resource extraction, the appropriateness of how resources are developed, and whether communities receiving benefits from the extractive sector should continue to enjoy other types of grants.

Bill Gallagher, a lawyer, author and aboriginal expert, said the federal government has no business demanding transparency on commercial deals between two private parties, particularly since one of the reasons these deals are taking place is because of the government’s own failures to fulfill its legal obligations, such as its duty to consult and its duty to accommodate.

The full article is worth reading and the evolving framework for payment disclosure will no doubt continue to be watched closely by all stakeholders.

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