The Extraction Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is catching on. When President Obama announced the United States would join EITI in September of 2011, many hoped the United States would inspire more nations to join. Last week, the President of France, Francois Hollande, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron said they want in just as representatives from nearly 100 nations meet in Sydney over the weekend to discuss the new EITI standard.
EITI’s purpose is to follow the money. EITI compliant nations must publish material payments extractive companies make to governments and what those governments receive. Deciding which revenue streams get published and which do not is the job of a Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG) that has representatives within the country from civil society, government, and industry. To get EITI’s seal of approval, the published report of payments must meet international auditing standards. Other than that, choices on material payments are mostly up to each implementing nation.
The US EITI MSG just met at the Department of Interior (DOI) a couple weeks ago to begin the crucial consideration of the scope of reporting. Since the Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) within DOI already collects much of the data on revenues from federal mineral leases, the MSG decided to start there. The discussions at the Sydney conference may help shape our scope decisions.
One peculiar wrinkle in the US EITI scope is the status of so-called locatable minerals – such as gold, silver, copper and uranium – that are mined from federal lands each year under the antiquated 1872 Mining Law. Hardrock miners on 1872 lands pay no royalty to the federal government. Since there is no royalty to track, we have no data on the amounts, types or values of these kinds of minerals. Nor do we know how much they extract, sell, or the overall value of each mining operation on public lands. Dealing with this segment of extractive industries, while challenging, is essential for meeting EITI’s mission.
The government, industry, and civil society sectors have each eagerly engaged in this process. The preliminary discussions so far have revealed the shared interest all parties recognize transparency can bring. The government needs transparency for credibility from its citizens. The industry needs transparency to encourage investor confidence. Civil society needs transparency to give voice to impacted communities. The United States is both a nation great for its mineral resources and for its democratic institutions. The members of the US MSG know the world is following what kind of standard we set.