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Could BC be First to Enact Full Financial Disclosure Rules for Extractive Industry?

A new campaign for transparency is pushing British Columbia to become the first province to require mining, oil and gas companies to reveal what they pay to domestic and foreign governments. The initiative, led by Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Canada and Publish What You Pay (PWYP), a group that campaigns for full disclosure from the Canadian government, asks Canadians to send a postcard, reading “Information is Power,” to B.C. Finance Minister Michael De Jong.

The groups hope to hand-deliver more than 500 postcards to the Minister on May 1st.

“When citizens can follow the money generated by the natural resources their country supplies to the world, they can ensure their government is using these revenues to improve their communities, rather than lining the pockets of people in power,” the groups state on the campaign’s website.

The TRACE campaign, or TRancesparent & ACcountable Extractives, advocates for accountability in the global extractive industry, starting with B.C.

“The TRACE Campaign is currently focused on increasing transparency, by making it mandatory for extractive companies registered in Canada to disclose all payments they make to governments, at home and abroad,” the groups write.

These TRACE campaign postcards with the message "information is power" will be hand-delivered to Minister De Jong.

“B.C. can help make this happen by requiring the 1200+ mining companies registered in the province to publish what they pay to governments in Canada and around the world.”

Samantha Burton, advocacy manager with EWB, argues “it’s impossible to talk about the global mining industry without taking about Canada,” in a recent op-ed.

“With 60 per cent of the world’s publicly traded mining companies listed in this country, 70 per cent of international mining equity raised on Toronto stock exchanges and a presence in more than 100 countries, the importance of Canada’s role in global mining in unparalleled.”

Canada is slowly moving towards more transparent disclosure guidelines for the extractive industries, with new transparency regulations – that require companies to disclose all payments to governments over $100,000 – to be enacted in April of 2015.

The TRACE campaign looks to put mining profits and decision-making power back into the hands of the country’s citizens by requiring full disclosure of financial payments.

“In many countries rich in natural resources – like oil and gold – the majority of citizens remain in poverty. Mining, oil or gas operations in their country generate billions of dollars of revenue, which should be used to improve people’s lives and livelihoods,” the groups write. “But too often, this doesn’t happen.”

According to EWB development profits are all too often “lost to corruption and mismanagement.” And a lack of public transparency, they argue, “breeds mistrust and conflict.”

EWB reports most citizens of resource-rich countries are unaware that there are more than 1100 companies extracting resources in their country at a given time. Citizens often don’t know what is being extracted, how much is being collected in the industrial or government sectors, or where the profit goes.

“Without this knowledge, it is very difficult for communities to ensure they receive full social benefits (such as investment in healthcare, education systems, infrastructure) from the extraction of their natural resources.”

With the help of this campaign, EWB hopes to push B.C. and Canada take the initiative to create a more accountable extractive sector.

“Canada is demonstrating real commitment to improving extractive sector transparency,” says Burton, “but global leadership does not come from a single policy. Canada became an international force in the mining business by demonstrating consistent, proactive leadership across the sector.”

“It’s time for our government to become a global leader in responsible mining practices by doing the same.”

Image Credit: Photo from Pricewaterhouse Coopers report Staying the Course.

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