EU proposes conflict minerals law; rights group says it's toothless

EU proposes conflict minerals law

Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy | Photo by Mark III Photonics / Shutterstock.com


A new scheme by the European Union (EU) hopes to make it more difficult for armed groups to finance their activities through the sale of conflict minerals.

Under the draft regulation announced on Wednesday, companies will find it easier to source tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold through conflict-free sources.

'Conflict minerals' are minerals that are sourced from regions of armed conflict. Armed groups often benefit from their sale and their extraction often involves forced labour.

The measures include an EU system of 'self-certification' for importers "who choose to import responsibly into the Union."

"Self-certification requires EU importers of these metals and their ores to exercise 'due diligence' – i.e. to avoid causing harm on the ground …" the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Trade Commissioner wrote in joint a statement.

The organization will also publish an annual list of EU and global 'responsible smelters and refiners.'

Other proposals include:

  • Public procurement incentives for companies selling products such as mobile phones, printers and computers containing tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold;
  • Financial support for Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) to carry out due diligence and for the OECD for capacity building and outreach activities;
  • Visible recognition for the efforts of EU companies who source responsibly from conflict-affected countries or areas;
  • Policy dialogues and diplomatic outreach with governments in extraction, processing and consuming countries to encourage a broader use of due diligence;
  • Raw materials diplomacy including in the context of multi-stakeholder due diligence initiatives;
  • Development cooperation with the countries concerned;
  • Support by EU Member States through their own policies and instruments

The EU is one of the biggest markets for tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold.

Human Rights group Amnesty International said the proposed law is "not strong enough," "falls far short of expectations," and will have a "minimal impact."

"Instead of putting forward robust legislation that would require a wide range of EU-based companies to do checks on their supply chains – known as due diligence – the Commission today announced voluntary measures that will only apply to companies importing processed and unprocessed minerals into the European market," Amnesty said in a statement.