5+ online portals every data extractor needs to know
Let’s admit it. We are now developing extractives portals faster than Australia getting a new prime minister. And that the past few years is that period when so much data about the extractives were drilled from reports and put out into the open through online portals. In case you’ve been sleeping under a rock and just woke up due to fracking, here’s a short list of some of the most fab extractives data portals you need to know about:
1. How much did BHP
Today, Oceanagold Philippines is at the forefront of debates around mining’s environmental sustainability in natural disaster-prone Philippines. Local communities are experiencing shortages in water supply and poor agricultural yields which they allege is a result of the company’s operations. This prompted the governor of the province to issue a cease and desist order against the company. The company has halted its operations last October 2019 despite assurance from the national government that it can proceed with its operations.
In a country where mining has gained through the years a negative public perception, what value does environmental reporting add?
Where are we now?
Social acceptability remains a challenge for mining here and abroad. In the Philippines, mining has been ranked lowest in terms of public trust for three years in a row now. In a 2019 international survey of 130+ executives done by Ernst & Young on risks and opportunities in mining, social license to operate and disruption topped the list for two years in a row now. Stakeholder demand from the industry to shape up only continues to intensify. The case of OceanaGold Philippines very well demonstrates this reality.
Transparency is seen by many to help alleviate this lack of trust towards the sector. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which is a global standard aimed at promoting good governance in the mining, oil and gas industries, has been around since 2002 and is implemented in 53 countries. At the onset, EITI focused on revenue transparency which is relevant in resource-rich countries plagued by corruption. But times have changed. Social and environmental impacts felt by local communities has started to emerge even more prominently. Economic growth for communities start to mean nothing once their water source is gone and their farmlands are left barren by contamination.
Last June 2019, the EITI released a new Standard which implementing countries need to comply with. One of the new requirements include environmental reporting. In the Philippines, spending on social and environmental spending has been disclosed since its first EITI Country Report was released in December 2014. Monitoring reports covering fiscal years 2012-14 has also been published through the Philippine EITI’s Contracts Portal. But disclosure is just one side of the coin. The bigger challenge is to make sure the information is used.
What needs to be done?
Companies and regulatory agencies need to proactively disclose timely data. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau already has a system in place from regulatory and institutional framework to an online platform where it can freely disclose information. There is also the Philippine EITI which is lead by government and is governed by a multi-stakeholder group (MSG) where civil society and industry plays a very significant role. The beauty of EITI is that it is independently assessed by a third-party and is validated by the MSG. This adds credibility and trust to the data.
Environmental reporting is very doable. The harder yet more impactful task is to make sure that credible disclosures are used. Government, companies, and civil society must engage their constituencies and those beyond them to make sure disclosed information is used in debates, policy-making, and information drives. Reports are good and necessary but if nobody is using them then they become simply storage of numbers in paper or pdf.
Data must also be simplified and catered to specific audiences because environmental disclosures can be daunting for most people. By simplifying them, it lowers the barrier for most people to engage in the discussion. Using infographics and simple and local languages in materials will be a good start towards that direction.
OceanaGold’s 120-page Sustainability Report has a lot of information about their operations - from taxes, employment, procurement, and environmental indicators such as greenhouse gases emissions and water consumption among many others. Yet it still face hurdles on social acceptability.
The case of OceanaGold Philippines tells us something that we all know by now - that transparency is not a silver bullet. Environmental reporting will only work if disclosures make a difference in terms of improved policies and informed public debate. While information is critical to the greater scheme of pushing for reforms, stakeholders need to go beyond disclosure because data and reports alone will not magically solve all our problems. We need to use the data.
This post was first published December 10, 2019.