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EU lawmakers surprise with vote on ‘blood metals’ ban

EU lawmakers surprise with vote on ‘blood metals’ ban

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

The European Parliament unexpectedly voted Wednesday in favour of banning all products that contain conflict minerals from war zones in Africa, in a fresh effort to eliminate them completely from the European supply chain.

The main objective of the legislation is to ensure that profits from those so-called “blood metals” — tungsten, tin, tantalum and gold — do not go to warlords in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The lawmakers voted 402 to 118, with 171 abstentions, to make it mandatory for firms that buy such metals to certify their origin. The parliament had been expected to pass a watered down motion that would have made it largely voluntary for companies in Europe to responsibly source the materials from conflict areas.

The decision now has to be discussed with the member states and the European Commission, the executive of the 28-member EU, the European Parliament said in a statement.

However, experts fear EU governments will block the tougher legislation as it could be seen as an unrealistic burden on business.

Tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold are used in many consumer products in the EU, in particular by the automotive, electronics, aerospace, packaging, construction, lighting, industrial machinery and tooling industries, as well as in jewellery. The upcoming law potentially affects 880,000 EU manufacturers, most of which are small or medium-sized.

Officials said the standards will be based on the OECD Due Diligence Guidance recommendations, which are designed to help companies respect human rights and avoid contributing to conflict through their mineral purchases from conflict-affected and high-risk areas.