Transparency and Accountability in Extractive Industries

The Problem

Extraction of natural resources, such as oil, gas, and minerals, can be a lucrative business. For people living in resource rich areas, it can be deadly.

People who live in areas where extractive industries operate often face poverty and human rights abuses. The industries exacerbate human rights abuses in many countries by making lands uninhabitable by polluting the environment.

Resource extraction often also provides a source of income to oppressive governments, making backroom deals that benefit the few instead of the many. The money exchanges between the companies and governments keep corrupt regimes in power, enriching elites while communities remain poor. The financial transactions frequently also pay for weapons used against local peoples defending their rights and their way of life.

All too often, local communities are kept in the dark, far away from decision making. Populations may not know that an extractive project is going to take place in their community. They often don’t get to decide how they want the project to proceed.

ERI’s Solution

We have documented in many countries such as Myanmar, Nigeria, Peru, and Ecuador that these industries can take a severe toll on communities and the environment.

We work with communities suffering from extractive industry-related abuses to bring them remedies through the use of innovative legal and campaign strategies.

We protect the rights of people by ensuring that strong standards are in place and communities have the knowledge and skills to use these standards to protect their rights against abuse, especially in the context of abusive security forces and revenue transparency.

Campaigns and Cases

American Petroleum Institute v. SEC v. Oxfam (United States)

When oil industry group American Petroleum Institute challenged U.S. regulations that would require disclosure of their payments to foreign governments, ERI represented Oxfam America to help defend the regulations.

Barrick (Papua New Guinea/Canada/United States)

We represented dozens of women living near the Barrick mine in Porgera, Papua New Guinea, who had been brutally raped by the mine’s security guards.

Bowoto v. Chevron (Nigeria/United States)

We sued Chevron in California for its complicity in murder and torture in Nigeria.

Campos-Alvarez v. Newmont Mining (Peru/United States)

We filed a Foreign Legal Assistance action to support an activists’ case against Newmont Mining Corporation in Peru.

Chadín 2 Hydroelectric Power Project

Peruvian communities filed a request for constitutional protection for earth rights defenders affected by the Chadin 2 Hydroelectric Power Project.

Climate Change case in Colorado (United States)

The Colorado communities of San Miguel County, Boulder County and the City of Boulder took oil companies ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy to court, seeking compensation for the costs of adapting to climate change impacts.

Doe v. Unocal (Myanmar/United States)

In the first case of its kind, we sued a U.S. company responsible for rape, murder, and forced labor in Myanmar. This case marked the first time a human rights lawsuit against a multinational corporation resulted in compensation for the survivors.

Environmental Impact Assessments (Mekong/Myanmar)

We are working directly to strengthen communities, campaigners and lawyers by organizing opportunities for them to understand and design their own campaigns around Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) processes in the Mekong region and Myanmar.

Extractive Industry Transparency (United States/Global)

Since 2009, we’ve worked with Oxfam America and the Publish What You Pay US (PWYP-US) coalition to promote transparency in the extractive industry.

Hongsa Coal Power Plant and Mine (Laos)

ERI works with researchers to monitor the health and environmental impacts of this project, and with a network of Thai organizations (Extraterritorial Obligations Watch  or Thai ETO-Watch) to track this and other Thai investments in the region.

Kiobel v. Cravath, Swaine & Moore, LLP (The Netherlands/Nigeria/United States)

We filed a Foreign Legal Assistance action to help Esther Kiobel gain access to documents to support her case against Shell in the Netherlands, where the company is headquartered. Ms. Kiobel’s husband, Dr. Barinem Kiobel, was murdered in Nigeria in 1995 after speaking out against Shell’s oil operations in the region.

Maynas v. Occidental Petroleum (Peru/United States)

Indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon took U.S.-based oil company Occidental Petroleum to court, alleging that the company’s oil operations had contaminated their lands and rivers for more than 30 years.

Norperuano Pipeline Contamination

A pipeline in the nnorthernmostPeruvian Amazon has been spilling oil and contaminating communities for 50 years.

Oxfam America v. Securities and Exchange Commission (United States)

After the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) failed to meet its deadline to draft new transparency regulations, we filed suit against the SEC on behalf of Oxfam America.

Pollution in Myanmar

ERI monitors and conducts advocacy around pollution issues and potentially dangerous development projects in Myanmar, such as the Mandalay Industrial Zone (MIZ) and the Pauk Tine and Heinda mines.

Shwe Gas Project (Myanmar)

This Korean and Indian-backed natural gas project connecting the Bay of Bengal to Yunnan, China has has lead to forced relocation, forced labor, destruction of livelihoods, and abuses committed by Myanmar Army battalions. ERI supports communities along the pipeline route and continues to monitor environmental laws and corporate accountability in Myanmar.

Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Shell (Nigeria/United States)

After nine Ogoni activists in Nigeria were murdered for speaking out against Shell’s oil operations in the region, the surviving family members of those killed filed suit against Shell, seeking accountability.