Canada sets deadline for rules on resource payment transparency

Ottawa calls on provinces to create rules to combat corruption – or it will act unilaterally

(Reuters) — The Canadian government is giving the country's provinces until April 1 next year to create rules making it mandatory for mining and oil and gas companies to disclose payments to governments, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said on Monday.

If the provinces don't meet this deadline to create a pan-Canadian approach for improving transparency in the country's resource-extraction industries, Ottawa will impose federal legislation, Oliver told a mining conference inToronto.

"We do not want to see some provinces implement standards, while others do not," Oliver told delegates.

Following similar initiatives in the United States and the European Union, Prime Minister Stephen Harpercommitted Canada last June to improving transparency in the resource sector by establishing mandatory reporting standards.

The move comes after years of lobbying by international development organizations for greater disclosure of payments, which they argue will help fight corruption, especially in developing countries.

Canada has been a global mining hub for decades. The Toronto Stock Exchange and its junior board, the TSX Venture Exchange, are home to about 60 percent of the world's mining companies. Many companies are headquartered in Canada but have all their operations in other countries.

The federal government's preference is to work with Canada's provinces and territories to implement reporting standards through their securities regulators, Oliver said. Canada has 13 provincial and territorial securities regulators.

Oliver said the government will require all Canadian resource-extraction companies to publicly report all payments of more than C$100,000 ($90,300) that they make to any level of government, domestic or foreign.

Instead of creating a central database, companies will be required to post reports on their websites, Oliver said. He said the aim was to keep the cost to industry low.

Two Canadian mining industry groups, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada and the Mining Association of Canada, teamed up with two nongovernment organizations in January to release a framework agreement for reporting standards. The move was made partly to pre-empt the government from imposing rules on the sector.

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