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Natural Resources Canada has published an impressive list of 182 agreements that mining companies have entered into with aboriginal communities across Canada. These include exploration agreements, impact and benefit agreements, participation agreements and socio-economic agreements.

Although the cost, complexity and sophistication of these agreements has been growing steadily, there is very little transparency about their contents, especially on how much is paid, nor on what the aboriginal communities do with the money. Typically, such agreements require that any disputes be resolved through private arbitration, rather than in the public courts, which may keep their contents confidential. The lack of data makes it very difficult for anyone to assess what is a fair or usual benchmark, nor how much money or other benefits are flowing to which communities. Similar agreements are reportedly being entered into for renewable energy projects seeking aboriginal participation to get additional Feed in Tariff points.

I wonder what Transparency International would have to say about these agreements? Will such agreements breach the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act? Will future leaders of the receiving communities accept the legitimacy of such agreements, and continue to respect them? And if not, what will happen to the projects that are being built in reliance on such agreements?

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