Overseas accountability remains issue - Activities by canadian mining firms.
Greater transparency of foreign operations emerges as key point at roundtable
Friday, November 17, 2006
Cross-country roundtables concerning the corporate responsibility of Canadian mining companies operating in developing countries could well translate into "greater transparency" of their foreign operations, key participants said yesterday.
But the thorny issue of legal mechanisms to ensure that those companies are held accountable for actions overseas are still at the discussion stage, they said as the last roundtable wrapped up in Montreal.
What is clear is that the five-month tour, which included sessions in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, has been "extremely constructive," said Catherine Coumans, of Mining Watch Canada.
Certain themes have been repeated during the government-sponsored sessions, said Dennis Jones, a mining industry advisory committee member.
One is "greater transparency for all stakeholders - government, civil society and industry. There has been agreement on that," Jones said.
And, "I think we all recognize that reporting on (corporate social responsibility) performance is not good enough at the moment and there are ways that can be improved," he said.
Another area where "convergence" seems possible concerns a complaints-resolution mechanism, possibly in the form of an ombudsman, Coumans said.
On the legal front, a range of things have been discussed, including how to make the Canadian judicial system more accessible to non-nationals intent on seeking redress for damages suffered as a consequence of mining operations.
About 60 per cent of the world's exploration and mining companies are based in Canada.
A number of those companies have been implicated in "well-documented cases of human rights abuses and environmental disasters abroad," according to the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability.
The roundtables spring from a 2005 report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade that identified the need for binding legislation that holds 'extractive sector" industries accountable for their actions overseas. The roundtables' government steering committee, led by the foreign affairs department, will present a report to cabinet, reporters were told.
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2006