By Scott Sellwood, Oxfam America
This post originally appeared on politicsofpoverty.oxfamamerica.org on September 20, 2017
New research from Oxfam’s partners in Peru shows – yet again – how hard it can be for governments to protect the tax base over the life of a mining project (and hold mining companies accountable).
For many countries, tax and other payments from oil and mining companies represent an important source of government revenue. A case in point is Peru, where the government receives billions each year from companies in the extractive sector. But is Peru receiving all that it should be from these companies?
Last month, Peru’s Supreme Court ruled that its tax regulator (SUNAT) could finally recover millions in lost revenues from Peru’s largest copper mine, Cerro Verde. For the last six years, SUNAT has fought to recover $250 million in unpaid mining taxes between 2006 and 2009. Of this, $140 million is due to be paid to the local government of Arequipa – the region where the mine is located – under Peru’s decentralized mining, oil, and gas revenue sharing rules. These payments will help pay for urgently needed public investments. The Supreme Court appeal was the latest attempt by Cerro Verde to avoid paying what the government says is due.
Oxfam’s partner, Grupo Propuesta Ciudadana (GPC), has followed the Cerro Verde case closely and analyzed the publicly available data. At the center of the now six year fight to recover the lost millions is a tax stabilization agreement signed by then-President Alberto Fujimori in 1998, who is now imprisoned for corruption and gross human rights violations. The company argues that this agreement entitled it to tax exemptions related to its first major expansion investment in 2006 when it invested $900 million to nearly triple its annual production. Peru’s tax regulator disagrees, as do their courts.
Peru is right to be pursuing these unpaid taxes—but what if this is just the tip of the iceberg? GPC argues that they should be trying to recover more from the Cerro Verde mine. Their analysis shows that between 2006 and 2011 the mine failed to pay an additional $200 million in taxes. Cerro Verde, in their own financial statements, state that if they lose all the appeals they will owe $544 million in unpaid taxes between 2006 and 2013.
Further, between 2005 and 2012 (the “boom” years for mining companies around the world) GPC estimates that Cerro Verde generated upwards of $5 billion in tax credits, as a result of overly generous fiscal terms. And last year, a second major investment by Cerro Verde allowed copper production to further double (500,000 tons in 2016). This is a major concern for the tax justice groups in Peru. Basically, despite production increasing and commodity prices recovering, a second tax stabilization agreement signed in 2015 (allowing for accelerated capital depreciation) is likely to mean that Cerro Verde’s taxable income for the next few years is effectively zero.
These discretionary tax exemptions are already having a huge impact on budget transfers to Arequipa: since 2012, subnational transfers from mining have collapsed (from an average of 70 percent in 2012 to just 2 percent in 2016). GPC cautions that these revenues are unlikely to recover until 2019 or 2020, at the earliest.
In just the last two years Oxfam has commissioned similar case study research in Cambodia, Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Niger—which each map government risks to revenue. Understanding oil, gas, and mine economics at the individual project level allows us to understand how national tax policy, royalty policy, subsidies and other investment incentives affect the amount and timing of revenue being produced by extractives projects for government coffers – and then into investments that yield inclusive human development outcomes. For our partners and allies, it is at the project level where revenues are secured or lost and it is where the real transformative potential for those revenues to support pro-poor development outcomes rests – as opposed to “economic growth,” and its often false promises of sustainable and inclusive jobs, infrastructure, or voluntary corporate social responsibility commitments.
Like the Cerro Verde case, these case studies show how countries that are heavily dependent on minerals or hydrocarbons for government revenues lose taxes from a combination of poorly negotiated, overly generous, and secretive contracts, and weak fiscal regimes vulnerable to abuse. Unlike Peru, not all governments have the wherewithal to audit multinational mining companies, and stay the fight through years of appeals.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Despite the seemingly infinite ways large mining, oil, and gas companies can avoid paying taxes in countries where they work – as new research from PWYP Canada shows – the pathways are not unlimited. There are clear patterns and concrete legal, policy, and administrative solutions that can minimize these risks.
In Peru, for example, the government should:
Peru’s fight to recover lost revenues is not unique. Too often, countries with significant mineral, oil and gas resources fail to secure a fair share of the revenues generated by these projects. Such losses (which some global estimates put in the billions) are, quite simply, a matter of life or death. The lost billions represent money that should have been spent on building schools and hospitals, paying teachers, doctors and nurses, and providing equal access to safe drinking water or health care, among other urgent development priorities.
For more than ten years, Oxfam has fought for law and policy reform to require public disclosure of project-by-project payments, contracts, and beneficial ownership. We continue to defend anti-corruption laws like Section 1504 of Dodd-Frank and are now seeing a flood of new disclosures from laws in the EU and Canada. These long fought for gains are now allowing us to better understand how individual mining, oil, and gas project revenues are lost and we are ramping up our campaigns to stop them.
Scott Sellwood is a Program Advisor for Extractive Industries at Oxfam America.
The following excerpt is from an article that was published on the Publish What You Pay International Secretariat site on August 31, 2017. You can read the full post here.
Advocacy backed by data
In November, Mukasri Sibanda traveled to Jakarta to join the inaugural ranks of our “ Data Extractors ” — individual members trained in the technical art of identifying, obtaining and analysing financial information from governments and extractive companies. “I realised that it is important to empower communities with data literacy skills to enable them to drive the change process in the governance of mineral resources,” he said.
He brought this knowledge back to Manicaland Province, where PWYP Zimbabwe began working with existing community organisations, like schools and health centre committees, and instilled them with a powerful new mission. For all the diamonds in their soil, there was no reason their classrooms should lack books and their clinics lack medicines. Cyanide runoff shouldn’t pollute their rivers and kill their cattle. And with all the economic activity mines create, local residents shouldn’t be jobless or forced to illegally pan for diamonds, drawing the wrath of air force helicopters.
By backing residents’ concerns with data, Sibanda said, “we are simply trying to level the playing field.” Ill-informed, angry people are easy for companies and politicians to ignore; a united front of community leaders bearing spreadsheets are far more persuasive. The community organisations have bought into the idea, gathering in mining towns across Zimbabwe to learn about budgets, taxes and corporate social responsibility.
“Normally data is used by civil society and rarely by the communities themselves,” said Darlington Farai Muyambwa, who is the PWYP Zimbabwe’s national coordinator. “For Zimbabwe, this programme has been unique in how it managed to create interest for data at the grassroots level.”
One of those community groups is the Marange Development Trust, which lobbies public officials and companies on behalf of the residents of the diamond-producing region. “Data really helps us to do exactly what we are supposed to do on our own instead of relying on other organisations on our behalf,” said Malvern Mudiwa, the group’s chairman. Recently, for instance, the Trust persuaded local authorities at the Mutare rural district council to share two years of financial reports. The documents were extremely vague: In a district where mining is the principal economic activity, there was no line item for revenue from mineral taxes. PWYP Zimbabwe and the Trust were forced to deduce mining company contributions themselves, revealing that the local government has “never received a cent of tax revenue from the mining companies,” Mudiwa said.
By Miles Litvinoff, Publish What You Pay - United Kingdom
This post originally appeared on publishwhatyoupay.org on September 11, 2017
The London Stock Exchange’s (LSE) Alternative Investment Market (AIM) was launched in 1995 for smaller and growing international companies looking to raise capital for expansion. AIM describes itself as “the most successful growth market in the world”. The UK government has sung its praises. Lesser known than the LSE’s Main Market where larger, more established international companies’ securities are traded, AIM has over the years helped more than 3,700 companies raise more than £100 billion.
Approximately 200 oil, gas and mining companies trade on AIM. Although generally smaller than LSE Main Market companies, AIM companies have grown over the years. AIM extractive companies’ combined market capitalisation runs into the billions of pounds, which can make them significant actors relative to the size of host country economies where many citizens are still desperately poor. They operate in 40 developing and transition countries, including 22 lower- and lower-middle-income countries as defined by the World Bank, and in all the BRICS.
Fraud and corruption
The LSE recently asked for views on proposed changes to the AIM rules, including rules of corporate governance. Investigations by Global Witness, Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) and others have revealed significant cases of fraud, corruption and other abuses involving AIM extractive companies. The risks involved are acknowledged by the UK government: “The absence of good governance and the lack of transparency around [payments to governments] reduce the positive impact that extractive industries can have on economic development … [and] negatively impacts on, and increases the risk for, … companies and investors active in the extractives sector through civil unrest and poor business environment.”
Publish What You Pay UK responded to the recent LSE consultation by proposing that all LSE AIM-traded oil, gas and mining companies be required to annually report their payments to governments following the same rules that apply to the 90-plus LSE Main Market-traded and large private UK-registered extractive companies now disclosing their payments each year under UK law. AIM extractive company reporting should meet the same requirements. The UK regulations’ £86,000 disclosure threshold, applied per single payment or series of related payments, will prevent AIM extractive companies from being unreasonably burdened by having to report inconsequential payments.
Benefits of transparency
Benefits would be considerable. First, there would be consistency in addressing investor and reputational risk. The LSE already requires extractive companies to disclose payments to governments of more than £10,000 on applying for admission to AIM, as well as to annually report estimated reserves and resources. Regular payment reporting by AIM extractive companies will help citizens hold their governments to account for revenues received, better inform investors and improve the UK’s, the LSE’s and AIM’s reputation for corporate governance.
The LSE’s discussion paper recognises AIM investors’ need to fully understand the businesses in which they invest and the associated risks. Payment to government disclosure helps investors make informed decisions and promotes confidence in the market. This is why large numbers of European and North American institutional investors and fund managers support both the EITI and mandatory public country-by-country project-level reporting.
AIM needs to maintain appropriate levels of corporate governance as its traded companies grow in size and as expectations regarding corporate accountability rightly become more demanding. With a current average market capitalisation of approximately £50 million, AIM oil, gas and mining companies are far from small in the eyes of ordinary people, and not all AIM companies will plan to graduate to trading on the Main Market. These factors make it inappropriate to apply fewer transparency requirements to AIM extractive companies than to their Main Market counterparts.
Public country-by-country project-level reporting is increasingly accepted as the industry norm. As Tom Butler, chief executive of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), said in early 2017: “[T]he global trend is in the [pro-transparency] direction. The train has left the station. It is driven by investors and other stakeholders and the desire of the industry to maintain its social license to operate. One way to maintain that is for everyone to see that the taxes and other payments the mining industry makes are applied sensibly to the development of the country.”
No UK institution should be encouraging a race to the bottom in terms of corporate transparency standards.
It is high time, then, for the LSE to extend annual payment disclosure beyond Main Market-traded extractive companies to AIM-traded ones. In the UK government’s words: “Shareholders, investors, employees, competitors, civil society groups, the media and other external stakeholders view companies’ disclosure of payments … as an example of principled leadership. … Regular … [r]eports on payments and revenues can improve the creditworthiness of both companies and countries.”
Read PWYP UK’s submission to the AIM Rules Review 2017.
By Aaron Sayne, Alexandra Gillies, Andrew Watkins, Natural Resource Governance Institute
This post originally appeared on resourcegovernance.org on April 6, 2017
Oversight actors can detect and prevent corruption in the oil, gas and mining sectors if they ask the right questions. Corruption schemes can be complex and opaque, yet clear patterns and similar signs of problematic behavior do exist across resource-rich countries.
To find these, we examined over 100 real-world cases of license or contract awards in the oil, gas and mining sectors in which accusations of corruption arose. The cases come from 49 resource-producing countries.
Based on this work, we developed a list of 12 red flags of corruption in extractive sector license and contract awards, with real-world illustrations for each. This list can provide a concrete, practical tool for many types of actors, not least:
Download the full report on resourcegovernance.org
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