The European Parliament on March 16 approved a draft EU regulation to prevent the minerals trade from funding conflict and human rights violations. It was approved by 558 votes to 17 with 45 abstentions.
The “conflict minerals” law will oblige all but the smallest EU importers of tin, tungsten, tantalum, gold to do “due diligence” checks on their suppliers. Big manufacturers will also have to disclose how they plan to monitor their sources to comply with the rules.
“The new regulation has the potential to change the lives of people caught up in war. Our system, however, will only work on the ground if it stays flexible and all players involved learn continuously and act responsibly”, said rapporteur Iuliu Winkler (EPP, RO).
“We cannot turn a blind eye to the harm we cause in other parts of the world. These rules have laid the groundwork for an effective tool to break the link between conflicts, human rights abuses and our consumption of everyday goods”, International Trade Committee chair Bernd Lange (S&D, DE) added.
Authorities in EU member states will be responsible for ensuring compliance by companies. Recycled materials and small importers, such as dentists and jewellers, accounting for 5% of imports, will be exempted, so as not to impose unreasonable bureaucratic burdens.
According to a European Parliament press release, due diligence obligations will apply from 1 January 2021 to allow member states time to appoint competent authorities and importers to become familiar with their obligations.
European Conservative and Reformist Group (ECR) MEP Emma McClarkin, who as shadow rapporteur took the lead on this report for the ECR Group said: “The action we are taking aims to stop conflict minerals aiding armed groups and terrorists in high risk areas. It is important we recognise the problem and do all we can to alleviate it without overburdening companies and forcing them to pull out completely of these areas. That would be detrimental to the livelihoods of families in some of our poorest regions.”
The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in the European Parliament have also been strongly committed to finding effective ways to make the origin of minerals more traceable and to make it mandatory to certify that European imports are clean.
Marielle de Sarnez, shadow rapporteur on this legislation, said: “We all have a common goal, which is to break the link between mining and armed conflicts… This legislation is an important step forward in the field of corporate social responsibility. It will help European companies to source in a responsible way and will serve as a model for other sectors too.”