(Reuters) – Ottawa plans early next year to create an independent office to oversee Canadian mining, oil and gas companies’ activities abroad, a government spokesman said on Tuesday, a move that environmental and human rights groups have long demanded.
The office would have both an “advisory and robust investigative mandate,” a spokesman for Canadian Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said in an email.
The move would fulfill a 2015 campaign promise by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party to appoint an extractive industries’ watchdog.
Nearly two-thirds of the world’s public mining companies are listed in Canada, while Canadian mining and exploration companies were present in 102 foreign countries in 2015, according to Canadian government data.
Non-government groups have called for years for greater oversight of Canadian mining companies abroad following a number of environmental incidents and accusations of human rights abuses, including that of forced labor at Canadian miner Nevsun Resources’ mine in Eritrea. Nevsun has denied the allegations.
Trudeau’s predecessor, Conservative Stephen Harper, established a Corporate Social Responsibility Counselor in 2009, but critics have said it is toothless as the office focuses mainly on facilitating dialogue between companies and affected communities.
The Mining Association of Canada, which represents the industry, was not immediately available for comment after hours.