Towards Transparency

‘Towards Transparency’ looks at what the industry and geographical scope of the ALP policy the impacts the introduction of this legislation would have for transparency and accountability in Australia and globally.

The report finds that of the 802 companies listed on the ASX who are involved in commercial production in the mining, oil, and gas sectors, 67 companies would be required to report under the proposed ALP mandatory disclosure law. Six of those 67 companies already report under a mandatory disclosure law, as they are listed on either the London Stock Exchange (LSX) or the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) leading to new disclosures from 61 companies; includes Australian incorporated companies such as Iluka Resources, Woodside Petroleum and Santos Limited, and overseas incorporated but ASX listed companies from major global extractive companies not currently reporting under any other jurisdictions mandatory disclosure law, including AngloGold Ashanti and MMG Limited.

The 67 publicly listed companies had a combined market capitalisation of approximately $320 Billion AUD as of May 2018. The companies captured operate in 43 countries and would cover payment information from approximately 150 separate projects. Australia is the most represented country with 49 companies reporting operations with new disclosure coming from 18 countries who currently have no EITI or mandatory disclosure laws where this level of disclosure would be the first of their kind by extractive industry companies.

Access the data set used here.

Read the media release here.

Indigenous peoples lost a powerful advocate in Indonesia

Arif Munandar, a close partner of Publish What You Pay in Indonesia, held powerful corporations accountable through the use of technology.

Arif Munandar practiced two kinds of activism: one loud, one quiet.

There he was clutching a megaphone and a wad of documents, shouting down Southeast Asian environmental ministers gathered at a 2006 summit. There he was a year later, at COP13 in Bali, with the same stern expression and a fist jabbed in the air.

Then there was Arif in the field, less stern and warmer, documenting the stories of indigenous people struggling to affirm their rights against powerful extractive companies. And there was Arif at home with his wife, Laili Khairnur, an activist herself, editing video footage late into the night.

Kerusakan Danau SemendukPhoto: The site of the former lake that vanished due to bauxite washing © PWYP Indonesia

“I was an independent woman, an activist and at times I didn’t need anyone beside me,” Laili said, describing herself back in 2008 when she met Arif at a Friends of the Earth conference. “But when I saw him, I knew he was the one who would be my partner to build the life I wanted — that is, a life dedicated to the struggle for justice and building a better world.”

On July 7, Arif died of a heart complication at 32. He leaves Laili, three nephews, scores of colleagues and a legacy of ongoing programs, including with Publish What You Pay Indonesia, that continue to promote accountability in the westernmost region of Indonesian Borneo.

“We have been devastated by the loss,” said Arif’s boss, Hermawansyah, director of the Swandiri Institute, a member of Publish What You Pay Indonesia based in West Kalimantan province.

Most recently, Arif had been involved with a revolutionary project using aerial drones to map out indigenous land and to monitor the activities of mining companies. The project has quickly become a model for grassroots, data-based activism in the region, and the courts have validated their methods.

Seeking Hope
Arif Munandar with one of the drones he built © Swandiri Institue

West Kalimantan is rich in bauxite, the ore from which aluminum is derived. Mining for bauxite is a destructive process, requiring companies to clear all vegetation, upturn topsoil and separate the aluminum by “washing” ore with vast amounts of water.

In 2011, bauxite mining came to a small, remote district called Tayan Hilir. At first, the local villagers believed they might benefit from development that would accompany the mining. But that’s not what happened. Electricity never came, and the companies hired few local workers. One lake vanished entirely from bauxite washing, and others began to grow algae. “The soil has turned yellow, dried and cracked. The fish are all dead, gone,” said Pius Tomi, a village leader. The fish they did manage to catch smelled of rubber. Tayan Hilir became the testbed for the drone project.

One of the central challenges of protecting indigenous land and the environment in Indonesia is a shortage of good maps to delineate protected forests and to firmly dispute companies when their activities stray from permitted areas and encroach on other land.

The idea to use drones came from one of Arif’s colleagues, Irendra Radjawali, who taught himself to cobble together fixed-wing aircraft by watching YouTube videos. Arif was a skilled data researcher and video editor. He had always been enthusiastic about the potential of technology to turn his field research into data that could inform policy change.

“His knowledge of GIS [geographic information systems] was self-taught, but because of his strong interest in learning new things, he was quick to master it and become an expert,” Hermawansyah said.

Their progress was swift. Communities were curious about the drones and eager to learn how to build and fly them. By July, Arif and Radjawali had taught thousands of villagers how to make and fly drones as part of their “drone school.” Today, more than 100 drones are in use.

Their biggest victory was a successful 2014 case that went to the Constitutional Court. The drones had photographed a mining company operating outside the boundaries of its permit. The company challenged whether drone images were admissible as evidence in court. The judges ruled they were, found the company in violation and revoked its permit. Everyone was ecstatic. The ruling meant that “technology is not controlled exclusively by certain parties only but also can be used for the public interest and humanitarian missions,” said Hermawansyah.

“Arif was passionate about helping the local communities,” said Rizky Ananda Wulan Sapta Rini, the project’s program manager at Publish What You Pay Indonesia. “It will be impossible to replace his dedication. But he’s left a huge impact: He’s already taught 3,000 people how to use drones to defend their lands.”
With Arif’s passing, the Indonesian activist community was thrown into mourning.

Musri Nauli found out with an early morning phone call. As Arif’s successor directing the Indonesian Environmental Forum, a consortium of NGOs based in Jambi, Musri considered Arif a mentor and friend. “For a moment I froze. My blood drained. My knees went weak,” he wrote. “The idea of ​​using drones helped Arif to develop a new path [of activism]. That strategy was later implemented into programs which have effectively dismantled corporate crime and have been valuable in investigations.”

“Arif could always convince people of something he presented because he had strong data knowledge,” Laili said. “What he says is always based on data and facts he collected on the ground. Arif is an activist who always sides with indigenous peoples and local communities whose lands and forests are seized and destroyed. Arif is the guardian of marginalized people, earth, and environment.”

Minerals as a Shared Inheritance: rethinking the resource curse

Does the way that we think of natural resources encourage mismanagement and even corruption? Publish What You Pay’s (PWYP) newest member in India, the Goa Foundation, puts forward the idea that a significant step can be taken towards addressing the resource curse by seeing mineral wealth as a shared inheritance, to be held in trust for future generations. They propose that royalties should essentially be seen as compensation for the sale of our shared inheritance. Moving away from the conventional view that royalties as revenue, the Goa Foundation has defined some clear campaigning principles.

We spoke with Rahul Basu, Research Director at the Goa Foundation, to find out how this idea could inform advocacy for sustainable mineral wealth management.

PWYP: What is Goa Foundation’s approach to mineral wealth management?
Rahul Basu: at Goa Foundation we are guided by the following five key principles in our advocacy for sustainable mineral wealth management:

  1. The Public Trust Doctrine or the principle that we, the people, have shared ownership of our natural resources and the state is merely a trustee of natural resources for the people and especially for future generations.
  2. The Intergenerational Equity Principle, or the idea that since our minerals are inherited, we are simply custodians who must pass the inheritance to future generations. This principle is practiced all the time by traditionally wealthy families.
  3. Consider the example of inherited family gold. If the family decide to keep the gold as it is, they ensure the gold remains to be passed onto future generations. However they must safeguard it against theft, which is both a headache and a cost, while the gold produces no income. Alternatively, if they decide to sell the gold and invest the proceeds in say land for example, they and their future generations can benefit from the income of the land as long as it is well maintained. The crucial point is that if the gold were to be lost or the investments mismanaged, the loss of capital would be permanent for all future generations.

  4. We must get our money’s worth. If we mine and sell our mineral resources, we must make sure that there is zero loss as any loss is a loss to all of us and our future generations.
  5. Permanent funds or Future Generations Funds are key and a part of the shared ownership agreement. As is already implemented by countries such as Botswana and Norway, we advocate for all the money received from our minerals to be saved in a Permanent Fund. Like the minerals, the fund should be owned by the state and kept in a trust for the people and especially future generations.
  6. Any real income (after inflation) from that Permanent Fund should only be distributed to all as a right of ownership, as a commons dividend (as in the case of Alaska).
  7. These 5 key principles mean our approach protects the property rights of the people, is ethical, moral, fair, just and right, and would also mitigate many of the issues which lead to the resource curse.

PWYP: What is the pitfall of thinking of minerals as a source of revenue?

Rahul Basu: minerals, as a concentrated source of common wealth, attract “rent seekers”, people whose main aim is to capture the financial value of minerals. Rent seekers include mining companies, politicians, local governments, government officials, police, local strongmen, lobbies, civil society, etc., who compete for the money received from selling our minerals. Consideration for the loss of capital for future generations often comes as an afterthought, if at all. Wealth also tends to be unfairly redistributed between the people and rent seekers which means both the current and future generations lose out on their mineral wealth. The shared inheritance approach addresses this issue of loss of mineral wealth, by keeping preservation of capital at the centre of mineral wealth management.

PWYP: Could you elaborate more on the idea of mineral wealth loss?

Rahul Basu: mineral wealth losses occur at many points. The IMF estimates a minimum loss of 15% of the mineral value (after all extraction costs and a profit) in the case of oil, and 35% in the case of minerals. In India, we found that losses exceed 75% for coal and iron ore. This essentially means we are selling something worth 100 for 25. The very nature of extractive companies means that they have a higher incentive to extract quickly and then leave, making as much profit as possible in the meantime. People on the ground and the environment are often seen as obstacles standing between them and great wealth. This inevitably creates an environment in which corruption can thrive.
Even the compensation for the minerals extracted, such as the 25% received in the case of India’s coal and iron ore, are often wasted. Significant portions of the money generated from selling minerals are diverted to arms purchases and lining the pockets of ruling politicians. Of the rest, often substantial sums are consumed, not invested. Even when they are invested in real assets, there are numerous issues with corruption, patronage and poor project selection. The current approach to mineral wealth management steals from both the current and future generations by leaving little, if anything, for them.

In our framework, there are three key mechanisms:

  • The zero loss target puts pressure on crony capitalism.
  • None of the money generated from the exploitation of our collective wealth is allocated to the government. This means that if good things are needed, the politicians must justify the required taxes to the people.
  • By keeping the royalties received part of the shared wealth, we have made everyone an equal stakeholder, with a moral obligation to ensure that no losses take place.

PWYP: How do you think this can be addressed on a global level?

Rahul Basu: as civil society, we must stop perpetuating the idea that money received for our minerals is a disposable source of income. We must systematically communicate the idea that mineral royalties are simply a compensation for the sale of our “family gold” and as such we must either preserve them or reinvest them wisely.

In treating mineral extraction as one might treat the sale of family gold, we will encourage people to start asking (a) do we need to sell our family gold, (b) is this the right time to sell, (c) are we getting the full value or are we making a loss, and (d) are we saving the money in a ‘non-wasting asset’ for our future generations?

Civil Society must also campaign to stop treating our mineral wealth as revenue for calculating the government’s budget deficits. This accounting error allows politicians to wrongly argue that more extraction leads to more revenue. Politically directed spending then gains public support for their approach of extracting more till there is no more.

Using the example of Goa, we can see the potential for change in the way mineral wealth is managed if the approach to accounting were different. Over an 8 year study period, mining was considered an important part of Goa’s economy. Mining constituted 8% of reported government revenues and 15% of the economy (GDP). The reported budget deficit was 2.46% of GDP. Politicians argued for more extraction.

If we treat mineral receipts as we would the sale of family gold (not revenue), then the budget deficit rises to a concerning 3.73%. If we also treat the losses incurred as expenses, then the deficit balloons to 41.47% of GDP. This is the true deficit. Such a large government deficit is unsustainable and politically untenable. This would make mining an important issue for everyone, not just communities impacted by mining. And, as such, this would lead to more people asking questions such as those listed above.

PWYP: What is your message to the PWYP community?

Rahul Basu: If this way of thinking were to become the norm globally, it could change everything. As a member of the PWYP movement, Goa Foundation calls on fellow PWYP members to stop calling royalty “revenue” or “income” or “tax”, to campaign to treat minerals as a shared inheritance, and to push for change in government accounting.

Find out more

Easy introductions: Video, Long read (15 mins)

Theoretical work:

A transparent mining and oil industry is one step closer: Publish What You Pay Australia welcomes ALP commitment on mandatory disclosure

Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Australia, a coalition of Australian civil society organisations campaigning for greater transparency in the mining, oil, and gas sectors, welcomes the Australian Labor Party commitment, announced today, to introduce a mandatory reporting regime for the extractives sector.

Australia enjoys a strong and positive international reputation for mining expertise. However, our leadership and reputation are clearly lacking when it comes to transparency and accountability standards for the sector.

“This is an important step towards a transparent oil and mining sector in Australia, and brings us one step closer to meeting the global reporting standard. Australia’s position as a world leader in mining, oil and gas activities should be matched by reporting standards that make us a leader in the fight against corruption and mismanagement in the extractive sector.” said PWYP Australia’s National Coordinator Jessie Cato. “Labor’s announcement is a huge step for transparency and accountability in Australia, and one that is long overdue for the notoriously opaque extractive sector.”

Mandatory disclosure reporting under Labor will require large Australian mining, oil, and gas companies to report all their payments to governments related to extraction on a country-by-country and project-by-project basis. Similar laws are already in effect in Canada, Norway, and the European Union.

Australia does not currently have a project level reporting requirement. A recent report by PWYP Australia, ‘Abundant Resources, Absent Data’, found 717 ASX listed extracting companies present in 105 countries. Outside Australia, ASX listed extractive companies are concentrated on the African continent. However, there were massive differences in project figures found by PWYP Australia from company reports to the figures quoted by the Australian Government, which could not be reconciled by PWYP Australia due to poor data quality or absence of data.

“Australia’s data problem is blatantly obvious when trying to observe our mining, oil or gas activities domestically or abroad.” Said Ms Cato. “Mandatory reporting not only provides us with accurate, timely, and publicly accessible information on where our companies are operating, but it is at the project level that a community can properly establish whether they are getting a fair deal for the extraction of their natural resources.”

PWYP Australia believes that Australian policy can and should support the sustainable development of natural resources in the countries we operate in, and in Australia.

“A global transparency standard has emerged, providing Australia with a clear path forward to step up. PWYP Australia congratulate Labor on taking this first step.”


IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 31 2017
Contact: Jessie Cato, National Coordinator 0499 479 293
Download the release here.


About Publish What You Pay Australia
Publish What You Pay Australia is a coalition of humanitarian, faith-based, environmental, anti-corruption, research and union organisations campaigning for greater transparency and accountability in the extractive industries. PWYP Australia works with the global Publish What You Pay coalition, a network of over 700 member organisations in more than 42 countries around the world, united in their call for an open and accountable extractive sector, so that oil, gas and mining revenues improve the lives of women, men and youth in resource-rich countries, including through advocacy for the mandatory disclosure of all payments made between extractive industry companies and governments on a country-by-country and project-by-project basis.

The current members of Publish What You Pay Australia are: Action Aid Australia, Aid Watch, Australian Conservation Foundation , Australian Council for International Development, A Billion Little Stones, Burma Campaign Australia, Caritas Australia, Catholic Mission, ChildFund Australia, Columban Mission Institute, Conservation Council of Western Australia, CFMEU – Mining and Energy, CAER – Corporate Analysis. Enhanced Responsibility, Economists at Large, Friends of the Earth Australia, Global Poverty Project, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Human Rights Law Centre, Jubilee Australia, Mineral Policy Institute, Oaktree Foundation, Oxfam Australia, Search Foundation, SJ Around The Bay, Tear Australia, Transparency International Australia, Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA, Uniting Church in Australia – Synod of Victoria and Tasmania and World Vision Australia.

Abundant Resources, Absent Data

Australian companies have a long history in extractives, particularly in the mining sector, both domestically and abroad. Australia’s global presence far exceeds its size and it is one of the leading extractive industry players globally, with over 700 Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) listed companies operating in more than 100 countries. Australia also enjoys a strong and positive international reputation for mining expertise and governance.

This report analyses publicly available data in an attempt to draw a comprehensive picture of Australia’s extractive presence – by company, country and project. It shows stakeholders a regional snapshot of what a mandatory disclosure law would cover in the Australian context and how this would enable citizens and governments to ensure that they are receiving a fair deal for the extraction of the natural resources. It also demonstrates how Australian policy can support the sustainable development of natural resources in the countries it operates in. Using data, it argues for the introduction of a mandatory disclosure law which would align Australia with the global reporting standard set by the 30 countries who have already implemented it.

A copy of the dataset which accompanies the report can accessed here

PWYP Australia proudly releases this report through the PWYP Data Extractors programme. It demonstrates how important open data is to increasing transparency in the extractives sector, building evidence based policy, and ensuring citizens and governments around the world are benefiting from the extraction of their natural resources.

Papua New Guinea

Despite a burgeoning resource economy, Papua New Guinea struggles to translate resource revenue into development. One of the country’s principal challenges has been effectively governing the extractive sector, which has historically been a source of grievance and conflict for communities living near mining sites. Three of Papua New Guinea’s mines are among the six worst water-polluting mines in the world. To help address these challenges, the PNG Resource Governance Coalition joined PWYP in 2017. Launched in March 2015, its primary purpose is to coordinate and facilitate civil society participation in EITI implementation.

Opening Australia’s extractive data for development

Tracking Australian mining, oil and gas companies around the world is challenging. Australia has one of the largest global footprints of extractives companies operating abroad. Research by Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Australia and ESG research house CAER in September 2016 found that the 22 Extractives Industries Companies on the ASX 200 had a presence in almost 50 countries. Trying to trace the payments between these companies and the governments of the countries in which they operate is difficult. But it could be done, and reasonably simply, if Australia introduced a mandatory disclosure reporting requirement that legally required ASX listed extractives companies to make public their payments to government in every country in which they operate.

Legislation for mandatory disclosure was introduced in 2013 in the EU, and 2014 in Canada. The reporting requirements in both Canada and the UK have been in effect coming up to one year, and have already shown payments of $150bn to governments of over 100 countries — including to countries recognised as suffering from the ‘resource curse’, and payments to countries where Industry opponents to this legislation challenged their legal ability to report, such as Qatar and China. Even with just a single year data set to work from, civil society is already making use of this information in multiple ways. Some have used it to show how the UK reports are providing a new standardised data source for oil prices, while others are using it for global advocacy.

A case study by PWYP UK used payment data released under the UK legislation from Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria; BG Group (now part of Shell) and Petrofac in Tunisia; BP and Shell in Indonesia; and Shell and BP in Iraq. PWYP UK then created infographics for 3 countries and a data summary for the fourth which were then shared with the PWYP Coalitions in these countries for their advocacy. It demonstrates how this data can be used by local civil society in their efforts to keep their governments accountable, and the global collaboration this data facilitates.

Ideally, that should be where the discussion stops; that Australia legislates to empower communities where Australian companies operate, and increase fiscal accountability and transparency of Australian companies. Unfortunately, there exist more concerning reasons why Australia requires this legislation. The recent ICIJ report A Fatal Extraction highlighted the high number of deaths linked to Australian extractives companies or operations in Africa. We have seen numerous allegations of corruption and bribery in the sector featuring Australian companies or subsidiaries, and the legal but unethical fiscal deals and tax breaks between Australian companies and African Governments which result in countries losing millions. Mandatory disclosure legislation in Australia wouldn’t automatically solve every single one of these issues, but none of them can ever be sufficiently addressed without it.

Domestically, the recent Petroleum Rent Resources Tax (PRRT) inquiry is a result of civil society organisations finding limited public information, using freedom of information requests to obtain additional data and exposing the declining revenue while Australia is in the midst of an LNG export boom and on the verge of becoming the world’s largest exporter of LNG. Had Australia had a mandatory disclosure regime in place, it would have made this issue more readily identifiable by civil society and the Commonwealth, as the data would have been publicly accessible.

Even if we remove the ethical impetus, there is a strong business case for this legislation. Increased openness in company reporting makes good business sense, it increases social license to operate, makes investment more attractive and complements work towards the emerging global reporting standard. It’s why Canada’s peak mining body, the Mining Association of Canada, was an active advocate for, and has remained strongly supportive of this legislation, and also why Australia’s two largest extractive companies, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, who are captured by the UK legislation, also publicly state their support.

Of course, there are companies more comfortable in opacity. Introduction of this law domestically will create significant push back from some companies, and the influence and power of extractives industries globally or domestically is not underestimated by anyone. We only have to look to the US to see how the same specious arguments some industry members continually regurgitate to keep their payments overseas secret – arguments civil society and Industry supporters not only dispute, but have proven false – resulted in the equivalent US requirement, the Cardin-Lugar provision, having been vacated as one of President Trump’s first actions.

Australia announced its intention to join the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in May 2016. EITI is a leading global initiative that aims to increase transparency in the extractives sector through a voluntary domestic reporting system. 51 countries are currently implementing the EITI. EITI is a great step towards transparency for Australia, and an overdue one for a country that has long been one of the initiative’s largest financial supporters. But for a country with the global presence as large as Australia, it’s not enough. EITI complements mandatory disclosure, but cannot replace it, a position that is supported by the EITI Secretariat. Nor can supporting the development of countries’ natural resources sector be achieved solely through our aid programme. It demands policy intervention and leadership from the Australian Government, and it needs the support of the Australian extractives industry. We cannot continue to claim we are world leaders in mining if we refuse to meet the emerging global standards and do nothing to address our role in the lack of fiscal transparency in the global extractives sector.

As Australia moves towards increasing openness through EITI and by joining the Open Government Partnership, the time is right to discuss a mandatory disclosure reporting regime. Australia has largely benefited enormously from its natural resources, and we have done so in a transparent environment fundamentally free of corruption; we owe it to other countries to allow them the same opportunity.

Jessie Cato is the National Coordinator for Publish What You Pay Australia.

Why mandatory disclosures matter for Indonesia

The global transparency wave has reached Indonesia. Initiatives such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) are bringing more transparency to Indonesia and the mandatory disclosures laws of the EU have led to more data on extractive activities in Indonesia becoming available.

But the oil, mining and gas industries are still among the most corrupt sectors and accessing relevant data on the amount of production, marketing, shipment and payment of taxes and other company financial liabilities is difficult. In Indonesia, ranked 90th out of 176 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2016, the data from the three EITI reports published so far (between 2009 and 2013) is incomplete and out of date. Disclosing data will therefore not be enough to ensure accountability. The data also needs to used in a meaningful way by a range of stakeholders, including civil society.

In this case study, our Data Extractor from PWYP Indonesia used the disclosure of companies’ “payments to governments” data as an entry point to begin comparing the payments recorded by the parent company (listed on EU markets) with those received by the Indonesian government.

This case study was written by Meliana Lumbantoruan from PWYP Indonesia and is part of Publish What You Pay’s Data Extractors programme, a global initiative which trains PWYP members and activists from across our network to use extractives data.

Case study: Making DATA work for communities project

Citizens and communities in extractive areas have the right to know how their finite natural resources are governed. As more and more extractives data is opened to the public, the more challenging it becomes
to make these disclosures relevant to local communities.

On December 2014, the Philippines released its first Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) country report. A year later, the country published its second report, coincidentally at the same time as the European Union’s mandatory disclosures policy was passed.

As a result, an idea for a project called “Making Data Work for Communities” was initiated with the sole purpose of making sure that data from these reports has an impact at community level. In this case study, PWYP Data Extractor Marco Zaplan describes how he develop the project and what its potential impact is.

Read our interactive story: The Deadly Mines of Indonesia

Read the interactive version here

It was a hot and humid July day in Sambutan, Indonesia. Junaidi, his brother Ramadhani and their neighbour Miftahul were running and shouting as they raced each other down dirt paths of the spiraling mining pit. Each child was trying to be the first to reach the enticing turquoise pool of water at the bottom of the mine. They arrived at the water’s edge and jumped in to cool off, splashing each other and swimming out into the middle of the expansive body of water.

Hours passed by as the children played in the abandoned pit. As evening fell, their mother waited for their return in time for dinner. With no sign of them, she anxiously alerted her neighbours and the authorities. Early next morning the children’s bodies were found, floating in the blue depths of the abandoned pool.

Stories like these are all too common in the region of East Kalimantan. Since 2011, 26 children’s deaths have been reported around Samarinda where most of the mining pits are concentrated. Their ages range from 3 to 17 years old.

For a city with a population of 727,500 and a vast rural population spread, these deaths have shocked the region. What’s more, other child fatalities could have gone unregistered.

Abandoned mining pits in Indonesia are a huge threat for local communities. There are no protective barriers to stop children playing near the toxic polluted water so the risk is high that many of them will end up drowning if they try and swim.

Parents who have lost children to these ‘death traps’ usually only receive a token compensatory sum of money for their grievances. While some families have started petitions to try and close these disused pits, their outcries usually reach deaf ears.

When 10 year old Muhammad Raihan Saputra drowned in a mining pit 200 metres from his home on 22 December 2014, his mother started a petition on which gathered over 10,000 signatures. She gave the petition to the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry and has spoken to ministers and national institutions but so far the government hasn’t taken action. The petition has since been restarted in light of more recent fatalities.

What is civil society doing about the situation?

The greatest struggle for these local communities is the lack of knowledge about how to use their rights to stand against mining activities appearing in their neighbourhoods. Once the mining companies have done their work and left a gaping hole in the landscape, communities don’t know how to reach out to the government and appeal for these pits to be officially closed and restored.

Civil society organisations play an incremental role in helping communities appeal against these deadly incidents in East Kalimantan. Many have appealed to President Joko Widodo, elected in 2014, who promised to rectify Indonesia’s poor environmental record. The President, known as Jokowi, was in East Kalimantan on 23 March 2016 when the bodies of two teenagers were found. He then ordered the Mineral Resource and Environmental Ministries to control and check all mining operations – especially small sites which don’t prioritise safety.

Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Indonesia recently conducted a study entitled “The Mining Permits Reform after the Enactment of Local Government Act and One Stop Service Policy” looking at five provinces: Aceh, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, East Kalimantan and Central Sulawesi.

“This study aims to assess the extent to which mineral and coal mining permits reforms are based on two regulatory changes: the Local Government Act and One Stop Services Policy,” explained Wiko Saputra, the Economic Policy Researcher at PWYP Indonesia. “This study not only focuses on a national level, but also take primary data from 5 provinces to get the whole picture of policy reform by involving local researchers.”

Missing data involving mining permits and extractive activities is a recurring theme mentioned by local authorities and officials in Indonesia. During the mining boom, basic data surrounding thousands of mining licenses was either inaccurate or lost…

Read the full interactive version here