EU lawmakers to limit import of conflict minerals

EU lawmakers toughen up rules limiting the import of conflict minerals

Trading mineral resources can be used to fund military groups in conflict areas. (Image by Julien Harneis via Flickr)

The European Union (EU) voted Tuesday in favour of making it more difficult for armed groups to finance their activities through the sale of conflict minerals.

Under the improved draft law, first proposed last year, companies operating close to areas of civil conflict in Africa will find it easier to source tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold through conflict-free sources.

In practical terms, the changes mean that all smelters and refiners based on any of the 28-nation bloc will be asked to certify that their imports are conflict-free on a voluntary basis. But some are said to want to make it compulsory.

"It is vital that this legislation is binding for the key players in the supply chain, such as smelters and refineries, when they are processing minerals," said Marielle de Sarnez, a French liberal on the European Parliament's trade committee told Reuters. "We must not forget that the objective of this regulation shall be to permanently break the link between mineral exploitation and armed conflict."

Beyond Africa

The lawmakers, who voted 22 to 16 with two abstentions to strengthen the draft law, said the scheme was not limited to sub-Saharan Africa. They added it can and should be applied in other places, such as Colombia, where militias control some gold regions.

In the United States, the Dodd-Frank Act already forces U.S stock exchange-listed companies to disclose the use of minerals from an African conflict zone in their supply chains.

Critics to the European Parliament's initiative say that creating an EU version of that law could lead importers to leave Africa altogether and plunge honest mining communities in those areas deeper into poverty.