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Conflict minerals: Time for an effective legislation!

Today conflict minerals or “blood minerals” as many call them, find their way into our computers, our telephones, our cars… The European Commission has proposed a new law for sourcing resources from areas of conflict but unfortunately, the proposed text is largely insufficient. Let’s demand effective legislation from the EU to ensure that minerals bring prosperity and not violence! 

3/13/2015 Publisher: Joakim Wohlfeil

Businesses risk fuelling violence and violations of human rights

In sourcing resources coming from conflict-affected or high-risk areas, European businesses are at risk of fuelling violence and violations of human rights instead of supporting a peaceful development.

The European Commission has proposed a law aiming to ensure responsible sourcing of minerals by businesses active in conflict-affected zones. The stated objective is to break the links between natural resources and conflicts.

The Congolese suffers because of the conflict minerals

In the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for the last 15 years the population is suffering due to conflict minerals such as tin, tungsten, tantalum (coltan) and gold (often referred to as 3TG). The civil population is suffering from a conflict including components as there are many reported cases of mutilation, massacres, rape, slavery and massive displacement perpetrated by both armed groups and the regular army units sometimes operating with private financial interest in the conflict.

Even though the links are sometimes complicated the conflict mineral affect the conflict directly and indirectly, not the least as a source for financing for illegal armed actors.

Europe has as one of the largest importer of conflict mineral both responsibility and a possibility to influence the situation positively by regulation the import of conflict minerals to Europe, both to limit the possibilities for illegal trade, but also to encourage initiatives for legal mineral trade.

Unfortunately, the proposed text from the European Commission is largely insufficient:

Voluntary, it does not require the businesses concerned to investigate their supply chains but is content only to “encourage” them to do so.

The European Commission restricts the law to four minerals (tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold). This neglects the fact that there are actually many other natural resources that contribute to abuses around the world, such as copper, jade and rubies in Myanmar, but also coal in Colombia as well as diamonds in Zimbabwe and Central Africa.

The regulation limits its scope to only 480 European businesses, It means that less than 1 per cent of the European mineral import would be affected. The impact on the ground, and thus on affected populations risks being minimal.

Ask parliamentarians to vote for an effective legislation!

Recently the development committee (DEVE) in the European parliament came out with strong criticism of the positions from the commission, and suggested several amendments including a mandatory legislation.

However, also the opinion from the Trade committee (INTA) in the European Parliament is crucial as they are closest to the commissioner of trade who handles the conflict mineral legislation in the commission. So far the INTA committee has shared the passive approach on the legislation with the commission and this might be the outcome when the vote in late April 2015

This makes it crucial to influence the upcoming votes in the parliament where European Parliamentarians will play a key role!