Hollie Tu

Hollie Tu 

Posted Monday April 28, 2014
 

Mining for data: making sense and making use of extractives sector transparency

Mining for data: making sense and making use of extractives sector transparency

Mine Photo CC Flickr User Rene Schwietzke

Extractive industries have received much attention recently, partly due to new EU and US legislation concerning financial disclosures within the sector. The EU Accounting Directive and US Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires oil, gas and mining companies to report on their financial payments to governments and provide information on their earnings in each country they operate in. While the US legislation covers oil, gas and mining, the EU extends its legislation to also cover the logging industry. It is hoped that legislation such as this will stop corruption within resource countries and make paper trails more transparent, thereby reducing the potential for money to leave these countries illicitly.

Not only will this legislation make it easier for OSINT investigators working on emerging markets extractives projects in the future. It will also give extractive companies more defined guidelines, enabling them to ensure best practice within their companies and in-country partners. The current open data landscape surrounding extractive industries is patchy at best and, with the first legally required financial disclosure reports not expected till May 2014 in the US and mid-2016 in the EU, things look to stay this way for a while. So, where should an investigator or a due diligence professional look and are there sources out there that could be useful? This blog will look at potential sources of information and how useful these may be given the lack of information elsewhere.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has worked over the past decade to improve transparency in the industry and, since 1999, has required member countries to provide a report on extractive industries in their respective countries. Given the lack of consolidated information available elsewhere, EITI member reports are a good place for OSINT investigators to start.

EITI in Indonesia

Taking as an example Indonesia’s inaugural report from 2009, it gives us crucial information on licenses given out, to whom, where and for which extractive material. A very comprehensive list of tax revenue and royalties taken by the Indonesian government is also disclosed at the end of the report.

EITI Example of oil tax revenue shown in 2009 EITI Indonesia report.

It should come as no surprise then that Indonesia, in general, does very well in terms of transparency, coming a respectable 14 out of 58 on Revenue Watch’s Resource Governance Index (in which reporting practices is one metric considered). However, even Indonesia has only produced 1 EITI report since 2009.

It should be noted that EITI reports are only produced by member countries and its current members do not include all extractive countries. This coupled with the sporadic publishing of reports makes the information landscape very patchy but with these caveats in mind, these reports would add value to any initial phase research.

Where EITI excels in a limited capacity is that it brings all these reports under one roof and provides them in accessible and searchable formats. However, many investigators will require much more granularity than these reports provide. They will be interested in contract wordings, company annual reports and the like. Often, if this type of data is available at all, it can be disparate and difficult to locate.

DRC

Our second source is Congo Mines, a website set up by the Carter Center, which collates documents and data relating to mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Not only does it consolidate mining contracts, it also contains annual reports from mining companies operating in DRC and their international parent companies. The scope and timeliness of some of its data is impressive. This can be seen most clearly in its tax and royalty documents which were last updated on January 2014 and cover the whole of 2013.

DRC An example of the data found on Congo Mines with searchable tags.

Most of the documents collated are in non-searchable scanned pdf format, but each document is tagged with company names and/or themes. This makes them relatively easy to search on the site.

Congo Mines is a superb resource, but it is limited to the information disclosed by mining companies and the DR Congo government. Unfortunately with no enforceable industry best practices set for reporting, levels of disclosure are at the discretion of governments and companies.

Peru Peru

A map of oil blocks already under contract or under bidding

For some countries, extractive industry open data is not a complete black hole and with initiatives such as EITI and Congo Mines consolidating available data it is certainly easier to access this information than before. Overall, there is a general positive trend towards transparency in open data within the emerging markets extractive industry. Peru is a great example of this. The Peruvian national oil firm, Perupetro, publishes a monthly report on production numbers as well as maps of blocks already licensed. In addition to this, the Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines regularly publishes information that include export numbers and company level data.

Conclusions

The conversation surrounding extractives open data is still highly focused on unavailability. Encouragingly though, a new challenge of how to consolidate and interpret available data is slowly surfacing, a sign that the fog is lifting on the extractives data landscape. There is clearly a will both in terms of the extractives sector, with over eighty companies endorsing EITI, and amongst extractives countries to publish more data on payments and contracts - making sense of that data is the next great leap.

Stay current with the latest from Arachnys

Subscribe today