Transparency Intl (TI) Urges Robust Mining Approval Process to Mitigate Corruption

Philadelphia, PA USA – Transparency International (TI), an organization dedicated to the global coalition against corruption, in a just released report entitled Combatting Corruption in Mining Approvals: Assessing the Risks in 18 Resource-Rich Nations  details how corruption can get a foothold in mining approvals processes before ground is even broken.



TI defines corruption as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain” and furthers adds that this  recognizes that all actors in the mining approvals process – not just government officials-have the potential to engage in corrupt conduct.

TI, in its report, also listed examples from a range of diverse countries and identities including some in Africa, important roles for government, the mining industry and civil society to identify, prevent and mitigate these risks.

In order to understand  and identify the corruption risks in the mining sector of the countries examined, TI urged the following questions be asked:

  1. Who benefits from mining approval decisions?
  2. How ethical and fair is the process for opening land to mining?
  3. How fair and transparent is the licensing process?
  4. Who get the right to mine?
  5. How accountable are companies for their environmental and social impacts and
  6. How meaning is community consultations?  The 102 page report, TI utilized what it refers to as the Mining Award Corruption Risk Assessment (MACRA) tool which undertakes a rigorous and consistent approach to identifying and assessing corruption risks in various contexts.
  7. The steps in the tool include:
  8. Defining the assessment
  9. Mapping the approvals process and practice and identifying vulnerabilities
  10. Analyzing the approvals context and identifying vulnerabilities
  11. Determining priority corruption risks for action and
  12. Assessing corruption risks and validation of the assessment.

The TI  report details the top seven risks from the MACRA tool and standings of some African countries which undertook risk assessments.

  1. What is the risk that community leaders negotiating with a mining company will not represent community members’ interest? Kenya, South African and Zimbabwe were listed a “very high” in the report.
  2. What is the risk that mining laws have been, or will be, if reform is planned, written to favor private interests before the public interest? Zimbabwe was listed as “very high” while Liberia was assessed as part of a group of risks.
  3. Assuming consultation with communities or land holders is required, what is the risk that negotiations for landholders or community agreements can be manipulated? Kenya and Sierra Leone were listed as “very high”.
  4. What is the risk that criteria for awarding licenses, etc will not be publicly knowable? Kenya, South Africa and Sierra Leone were listed as “very high”.
  5. What is the risk that applicants for licenses, etc will be controlled by undeclared beneficial owners? Zambia and Zimbabwe were rated as “very high” while Kenya was assessed as part of a group of risks.
  6. What is the risk that, in practice, that there is no due diligence on applicants claims regarding their capacity and financial resources? Kenya, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe were listed as “very high”.

TI is urging governments, civil society and industries around the world to ask the following questions in their own countries, utilize their own examples and context to better understand the risks in their own context to building corruption- free mining processes.


Political and administrative context 1. Who benefits from mining approval decisions? Corruption is more likely to occur when:

  1. Regulations on political donations and lobbying are weak
  2. The real owners or beneficiaries of licence applicants are not disclosed
  3. Senior public officials don’t declare assets or interests in mining companies
  4. Controls on revolving doors are inadequate
Land allocation 2. How ethical and fair is the process for opening land to mining? Corruption is more likely to occur when:

  1. Land rights are poorly protected and not properly registered
  2. Rules and criteria for opening land to mining are not clear or transparent
  3. Register of land rights is incomplete or uncoordinated with other land use registers
Mining licence application and approval 3. How fair and transparent is the licencing process? Corruption is more likely to occur when:

  1. Steps in the licencing process are unclear
  2. Information in the licence register is missing or not publicly available
  3. The licencing authority is under-resourced
  4. Decision-making criteria are unclear or decisions are vulnerable to ministerial interference
Environmental and social impact assessment 4. Who gets the right to mine? Corruption is more likely to occur when:

  1. Due diligence on licence applicants is inadequate
  2. Controls to deter licence stockpiling are ineffective
  3. Regulation and disclosure of licence transfers are weak
5. How accountable are companies for their environmental and social impacts? Corruption is more likely to occur when:

  1. Verification of ESIAs is inadequate
  2. Criteria for environmental approval decisions are not clear or transparent
  3. ESIA reports are not publicly available
  4. Enforcement of licence conditions is weak
Community consultation 6. How meaningful is community consultation? Corruption is more likely to occur when:

  1. Rules for consultation are not clear
  2. Consultation only occurs with local elites
  3. Information about the project or its potential impacts is not accessible to community members
  4. Community agreements are not publicly available

Some of the African countries listed in the TI report are taking steps to mitigate corruption risks as it relates to the land and mining sector.

Mining in Zimbabwe

Mining in Zimbabwe

Kenya has recently taken steps to protect customary land rights. South Africa has been working to streamline its mining approval process but not without  some lingering bureaucratic hurdles. Zimbabwe is moving to install an online presence to ensure accuracy and ease of application in the mining sector.

Zambia has opportunities to de-politicize the mining committee to avoid undue influence and abuse from political appointees as is the case presently. Sierra Leone, in spite of legal requirements for the mining sector, has weak enforcement regimes which must be strengthened and include implementation of the Community Development Agreements which benefit local communities. Presently, the country’s National Minerals Agency is taking steps to be more transparent and is not publishing contracts on a dedicated website.

Conflict diamond

Conflict diamond

TI says governments, mining industries, the public must first understand the sources of corruption and then implement effective solutions and mitigating measures.

“Countries with robust approvals regimes can attract higher quality investments from major players who avoid corruption-prone jurisdictions, improve economic returns to their citizens and reduce rates of social conflict around mining projects,” the global corruption watchdog organization says.

 By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine