Ad campaign calls on SEC to issue rule on oil and mining transparency

By jforres

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Washington, D.C. – International humanitarian organization Oxfam America kicked off a new advertising campaign today urging the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to quickly implement the “Cardin-Lugar” provision of the Dodd-Frank Act. This provision (1504) requires companies to disclose payments they make to host governments for the exploration and extraction of oil and minerals. Coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the Act’s passage, the ads start running today in print and online in Politico, as well as Bloomberg.com.

“For too long, people on both sides of the pipeline have been kept in the dark about the payments oil and mining companies make for the rights to drill and mine,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America.  “Congress did the right thing by passing the rule, but  now it’s time to bring it to life and ensure that resource-rich countries spend oil and mining revenues on critically needed investments in food security, schools and health services.”

The ads feature a photograph of Mary Amo, whose community in Obuasi, Ghana has been affected by gold-mining operations and urge the SEC to issue strong rules for oil and mining transparency.  Like so many resource-rich communities around the world, villages like Mary’s see little from the billions of dollars in government revenues generated by mining and oil projects each year. Oxfam hopes the ads will remind the SEC why people like Mary have a right to know the amount of money their government receives from oil and mining revenues so they can see how it’s spent.  

“We have witnessed some of the most resource-rich countries on our planet paradoxically sink into impoverishment as corrupt government officials squander the wealth,” said Mohammed Amin Adam, convener of Ghana’s Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas. “The only way to hold government accountable is to arm citizens, not with weapons, but with information. The longer the SEC waits, countries like Ghana, Africa’s newest oil producer, are at greater risk of falling victim to the resource curse.”

According to public comments submitted to the SEC, the American Petroleum Institute, Chevron, Exxon, Shell and other companies argue that disclosure of such information puts companies at a competitive disadvantage, but some companies such as Talisman Energy, Statoil, AngloGold Ashanti and Newmont Mining, are already disclosing payments in every country of operation and in some cases provide this information at a project level.

“Project-level reporting is precisely the kind of information affected communities and financial investors want to see,” said Ian Gary, policy manager of Oxfam America’s oil and mining program. “The SEC must not give in to the wishes of companies that don’t want to follow the new law.”

Investors representing more than $1.2 trillion in assets under management submitted comments to the SEC on its draft rule before the March comment deadline, and welcomed, along with Oxfam and other NGOs, the draft rules the SEC issued in December.

Since the passage of the US law, the global movement for transparency of these payments has grown rapidly. The G8 recently committed to implementing mandatory disclosure laws and, José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, has committed to advancing legislation in Europe, with a proposal tabled by October.

Gary added, “With the world waiting for the United States to act, the SEC has an opportunity to issue final rules that will help poor countries suffering from the so-called resource curse, help themselves.”