Australian mining companies are engaging in secretive tax practices that are depriving governments in Africa of millions of dollars in tax revenue that could be spent on public services to tackle poverty and inequality, according to a new report released this week.

The research report, Buried Treasure, is published jointly by Oxfam Australia, Tax Justice Network Australia and the Uniting Church in Australia. It estimates that more than $1 billion in profits was shifted out of Africa to tax havens by Australian mining companies in just one year (2015) – equating to up to almost $300 million in tax revenue that could have been used for vital services such as schools and hospitals.

The report also finds that the tax affairs of many Australian mining giants remain cloaked in secrecy. It shows a majority of Australian mining companies do not publish enough tax information for anyone to understand their tax payments and practices around the world.

It argues there is an urgent need for mandatory public tax transparency to make it clear what taxes companies pay and where.

“Australia is a global mining giant, but it’s lagging behind other countries on mandatory tax transparency laws that would require multinational mining companies to come clean on their tax payments on a country-by-country and project-by-project basis,” Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said in a press release.

“To put this in context, the estimated nearly $300 million lost in 2015 through the unethical tax practices of Australian mining companies is almost seven times the total cost of national malaria control programs in nine of the poorest countries across sub-Saharan Africa.”

The report also ranks 40 ASX listed Australian mining companies on a scale showing which are the most and the least transparent on public reporting of their tax affairs – and found half fall into the worst category.

“Australian mining companies rarely reveal enough tax data for the public to easily understand their full global tax practices, and the handful that do primarily do so in response to laws changing in countries other than Australia,” Tax Justice Network Australia spokesman Mark Zirnsak said.

“The estimated tax avoidance by the Australian mining sector in Africa is just a snapshot of an enormous global problem. This is simply not good enough – it is time for Australian companies to lead the way on transparency and the Government to act to bring an end to this scourge.”


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