These companies perform best on Indigenous Rights:

Even though Denmark’s ratification of the ILO convention grants indigenous and tribal peoples the right to preserve and develop their own culture within the sovereign state, and the government is obliged to support these efforts, the companies operating in Greenland (see image) are not sufficiently equipped for this task. (Photo: Nunaminerals)
A new survey demonstrates that the oil industry is better equipped than the mining companies for maintaining indigenous people’s rights in the Arctic.

A new survey demonstrates that the oil industry is better equipped than the mining companies for maintaining indigenous people’s rights in the Arctic.

92 companies operating land-based extraction of natural resources in the Circumpolar North have been evaluated and ranked according to a set of 20 criteria, and the conclusion is not good: Less than 40 percent of the companies are fit to maintain and respect indigenous people’s rights in the areas in which they operate.

Professor Indra Øverland has conducted the study. He explains that the scientists have not looked at how the companies operate in practice, but rather how they have organized themselves and which standards they have committed to following. To put it in other words, it’s all about which mechanisms each company has in place to handle indigenous people’s rights and whether or not they have committed to safeguarding such rights.

- It would probably be better to consider the behavior of each company, but it is hard to do that in an objective way, Øverland says.

Read also Sven-Roald Nystøs Op-ed on Business and Indigenous people´s rights
Indra Øverland (Foto: NUPI)
Indra Øverland (Foto: NUPI)


Establish norms

Even though the ranking may deviate some from how the companies actually behave, he nevertheless considers the investigation meaningful.
- This is work that contributes to establishing norms that in a long-term perspective force companies that operate in areas where there are indigenous people to behave well, he argues.

The list shows that the oil and gas companies are the ones who rank best as far as formal compliance is concerned, though the Teck Alaska Inc., corporation tops the ranking.

- I had never heard of them before commencing this work, but it became evident quite early on that this is a company that is well aware of indigenous people’s rights and has a well-founded attitude towards it.

Easier to gain acceptance

Indra Øverland believes it can prove profitable both financially and risk-wise for companies to perform well on this ranking in order to prove that they have their affairs in order when it comes to indigenous people’s rights in a given area.

- If, for instance, resources are found in an area, it can be easier for a company to gain access if they can prove that they are listed high on this ranking and have committed to safeguard indigenous people’s rights, he argues. He goes on to say that the local population can see the overview for themselves and investigate what the company has committed to.

More critical of oil spill than mines

The study is called "Ranking Oil, Gas and Mining Companies on Indigenous Rights in the Arctic" and awards points for how each company meets each of the 20 criteria. The points rate from 1 to 4, where 4 is best and 1 is the poorest. While the oil and gas companies score an average of 2.14 points, the mining companies score 1.74.

- Why this significant difference?

- I believe that people have been more critical of oil spill, which is black and ugly, and provides stronger visual impressions than what goes on in a sub-surface mining operation. I cannot say for sure, but I think this has contributed to the oil and gas industry having been forced to maintain a higher awareness of ethics and environment, and that this has also affected the relationship to indigenous people too.

Close top heat

The top heat is a close race. Teck, the winner, scores 3.75 points while the second place is taken by  Total E&P with 3.70.

Øverland says there is not much that separates the top 10-ranked companies, but that there is a big difference between the top and the bottom of the list of 92 companies.

- As a company I would definitely prefer to be ranked among the top 25 percent rather than the bottom 25 percent, he adds.

Denmark bottom-ranked

In addition to ranking the companies he has estimated the average ranking for the companies operating in each of the Arctic states. It may come as a surprise for some that states like Norway and Denmark rank fifth and seventh, respectively, on the list.

This is what the country list looks like, with average score for each country’s companies in parenthesis:
USA/Alaska (2.42)
Canada (2.24)
Sweden (1.89)
Finland (1.84)
Norway (1.78)
Russia (1.77)
Denmark/Greenland (1.47)

Norway and Denmark are the only two Arctic countries that have ratified the ILO Convention about indigenous people and indigenous peoples rights within independent states to preserve and develop their own culture, and the authorities’ duty to support this work.

- This proves that the ILO Convention does not perhaps carry as much significance as we like to believe in Norway?

- Yes, arguing that is ratified in Norway does not suffice. It may also have become a pretext, Øverland says. He believes this also may have something to do with what traditions Norway has for solving issues regarding environment, ethics and standards.

- In Norway there is a strong tradition for the state to handle these issues. For instance, we had the world’s first ever Minister of Environment and the first Environmental Department, yet everyone keep driving around in their petrol-fuelled cars. In other countries we see more of a tradition where individuals and corporations take an active stand and work on it, while in Norway we are more accustomed to a responsible and intervening state, he argues.

See the full list of companies:

1Tech Alaska Incorp.US3,75
2Total E&PNo3,7
3MMG RespurcesCA3,6
4Arctic Slope Regional Corp.US3,55
8Kinross GoldRU3
9Polymetal Int.RU3
10Imperial OilCA2,95
11Exxon Mobil AlaskaUS2,76-2,95
12Agnico Eagle MinesFI2,51-2,75
12ConocoPhilips AlaskaUS2,51-2,78
13Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.US2,26-2,50
13First Quantum MineralsFI2,26-2,52
13Gold Fields netherlandsFI2,26-2,53
13Hilcorp AlaskaUS2,26-2,54
14Anadarko PetroleumUS2,01-2,25
14Anglo-AM., Sakatti MiningFI2,01-2,26
14Dragon MiningFI2,01-2,27
14Eurasian MineralsSE2,01-2,28
14NANA Regional Corp.US2,01-2,31
15Almazy AnabaraRU1,76-2,01
16Arctic GoldNO1,51-1,75
16GDF SUEZ E&PNO1,51-1,77
16Ironbank ZincDK1,51-1,78
16Nenetskaya Neftyanaya Komp.RU1,51-1,79
16Nordic miningNO1,51-1,80
16Northern RadianceRU1,51-1,81
16Nuna MineralsDK1,51-1,83
16Omya HustadmarmorNO1,51-1,84
16Sibelco NordicNO1,51-1,86
17Arctic Marine Engineering-Geol. Exp.RU1,26-1,50
17Aurion ResourcesFI1,26-1,51
17Auryn ResourcesCA1,26-1,52
17Avalon MineralsSE1,26-1,53
17Geo MiningNO1,26-1,57
17Hudson ResourcesDK1,26-1,58
17Kandalashka Al. Smelter (RUSAL)RU1,26-1,59
17Kovdorsky GOKRU1,26-1,60
17Magnus MineralsFI1,26-1,61
17Malmbjerget MolybdenumDK1,26-1,62
17Norge Mineral ResourcesNO1,26-1,63
17Norilsk NickelRU1,26-1,64
17Nortec MineralsFI1,26-1,65
17Northern CrossCA1,26-1,66
17Northern IronNO1,26-1,67
17Northern Shield ResourcesDK1,26-1,68
17Novourengoyskaya Burovaya Komp.RU1,26-1,69
17Platina ResourcesDK1,26-1,72
17Skaland graphiteNO1,26-1,73
17SK RusvietpetroRU1,26-1,74
17The QUARTZNO1,26-1,75
18Beowulf MiningSE1,00-1,26
18Brooks Range PetroleumUS1,00-1,27
18Caelus EnergyUS1,00-1,28
18Commander resourcesCA1,00-1,29
18Lovozero GOKRU1,00-1,31
18North-Western Phosphorus Co.RU1,00-1,32
18Norwegian RoseNO1,00-1,33
18Shahta IntaugolRU1,00-1,34
18Taranis ResourcesFI1,00-1,35
18Tertiary MineralsFI1,00-1,36
18Usibelli Coal MineUS1,00-1,37