At the formal launch of the ResourceContracts.mn contracts portal on 22 April, Mongolia’s deputy minister of mines and heavy industry reaffirmed the country’s commitment to publishing mining and petroleum contracts and announced the public release of over 150 new contracts. After several years of stuttering progress on contract transparency in Mongolia, this is welcome news.
Due to the large sums of money involved, subcontracting carries risks. Procurement deals are less visible and more numerous than the high-profile processes used to award exploration and production rights, and they are harder for government regulators, the media and civil society to scrutinize. They are therefore a common node for corruption.
In a report, Rio Tinto was accused of “illegitimately lowering” its withholding taxes paid to the government of Mongolia in relation to the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine. Rio allegedly did this by using a double tax agreement between Mongolia and the Netherlands, in addition to which it negotiated an even lower rate of withholding tax in its amended mining agreement in 2011. This piece reviews Rio’s tax arrangements.