EU toughens up rules on imports of conflict minerals

International regulations have succeeded in limiting the export of conflict minerals, but illegally mined minerals continue to support warlords in in certain areas of the world. (Image by Fairphone | Flickr Commons.)

The European Union passed Monday fresh rules that make it more difficult for armed groups to finance their activities through the sale of so called conflict minerals.

The new legislation, which becomes binding in January 2021, forces all the 28 member countries to identify the source of their metals and mineral imports, particularly gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten, which are highly used in tech devices, batteries for electric cars and jewellery.

The new law, which will come into force in 2021, requires importers to ensure their business do not contribute to armed conflicts.

The countries will also have to ensure that their supply chains do not contribute to funding armed conflict.

The legislation, passed after about three years of debate, is seen as a step forward in product traceability and the fight against armed conflicts. But despite being binding, it will neither apply to the whole supply chain, nor will it cover all importers.

The council argues the rules cover at least 95% of all the EU imports of metals and minerals, but acknowledges that they don’t  apply to importers whose annual import volumes are below a certain threshold amount.  This exemption is intended to provide some relief to smaller companies, the lawmakers said in the statement.

Another shortcoming of the new law is the fact that covers only four minerals and omits other resources, such as cobalt, which have been linked to serious human rights violations.

Under the legislation, manufactured products will not be subject to the traceability requirements, which experts warn is likely to make room for loopholes in the system.

The move comes shortly after US President Donald Trump announced his intention to review some of the provisions of the Dodd-Frank law, which governs mineral imports to the US and on which the EU’s own law is based.