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Ottawa to press ahead with mining disclosure laws if provinces don’t

File photo of a Barrick Gold mining operation.

Ricardo Rojas/Reuters

Ottawa says it will bring in federal legislation to compel extractive companies to report project-related payments made to governments if the provinces and territories don't act quickly to set up their own reporting systems.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced last June that the government would move ahead on creating mandatory reporting rules for the industry in a move that has been widely applauded by transparency groups. The aim is to track significant payments that mining, oil and gas companies make to governments in Canada and internationally to make it easier for people to hold their governments to account for how the money is spent.

A working group came up with a new reporting framework earlier this year but Ottawa has faced resistance from some provinces in implementing national standards.

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Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver told a group of mining industry representatives on Monday that while the government would prefer to develop the rules through provincial securities regulators, it would forge ahead on its own if the provinces do not act by April 2015.

"If the provinces do not implement adequate standards our government will enact federal legislation to move this initiative forward," Mr. Oliver said. "This is not our preferred option, but we will follow that road if necessary."

Speaking at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention in Toronto, Mr. Oliver said a new system for mandatory reporting would be consistent across the country, rather than a patchwork of standards in select provinces. He said extractive companies would have to report all project-related payments over $100,000, made to any level of government in Canada and internationally.

The rules would apply to public companies and medium to large private companies on a project-by-project basis. Earlier this year, the working group established to look at the new reporting framework recommended having smaller firms report payments of $10,000 or more, but Mr. Oliver said on Monday he does not believe that level of reporting is necessary.

He also said there would be no central database for the initiative, and companies would be expected to post the information to their websites. Transparency groups have advocated for a central database to make it easier to track payment, but Mr. Oliver said such a system would be too onerous for companies.

"We aim to ensure these standards are low cost to industry and government, and do not put Canadian companies at a competitive disadvantage," he said.

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