US miners must disclose foreign payments

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US-listed oil and mining groups will be forced to disclose their payments to foreign governments after two years of industry lobbying failed to persuade regulators to water down new transparency rules this week.

Anti-corruption campaigners hailed the Securities and Exchange Commission’s rules, which flesh out provisions in the Dodd-Frank financial reform act intended to counter the graft and repression that often accompany mineral wealth.

“These rules should make normal practice what repressive governments and some companies have refused to do, which is tell the public how much companies are paying for natural resources that belong to the countries and their citizens,” said Karin Lissakers, president of Revenue Watch, a campaign group backed by billionaire investor George Soros that has pushed for tough new disclosure provisions.

Companies such as ExxonMobil and Chevron – as well as foreign groups with US listings – will be obliged to publish annually their payments to each government for each project, including taxes, royalties and contentious so-called signature bonuses for exploration rights.

However, some doubt remains about the definition of “project”, which activists said potentially created a loophole.

The SEC rejected industry efforts to have some countries with secretive governments exempted from the rules, leaving companies to juggle the demands of regulators with those of regimes such as Angola’s, which has threatened to expel groups that disclose confidential data.

Attention now turns to the EU, which is debating similar transparency rules for companies under its jurisdiction.

US authorities also approved measures obliging groups such as Apple and Hewlett-Packard to establish whether their products contain minerals from the illicit mining trade, which fund the warlords who terrorise the Democratic Republic of Congo and its central African neighbours.

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