EU readies voluntary conflict minerals scheme

  

The EU's trade chief will present a voluntary scheme in March aimed at stemming the import of minerals from conflict zones and prevent their use to finance war and strife, EU officials said on Wednesday (5 February).

Karel De Gucht's proposal to the European Commission, the EU executive, will encompass gold, tungsten, tantalum and tin, in a bid to pressure importers to classify them as coming from areas free of conflict, Reuters reported.

"Work is currently underway to prepare a proposal ... for a comprehensive EU framework on responsible mineral sourcing in line with international guidelines," said EU Trade spokesman John Clancy.

The conflict mineral zone includes the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighbouring countries including Angola and South Sudan, according to a US definition. These states make up 17% of the global production of tantalum, 4% of the global production of tin, 3% of tungsten and 2% of gold.

Tantalum is used in electronics, while tungsten is used in light bulb filaments.

Like US conflict minerals legislation, the EU’s proposal was initially devised to only include the Republic Democratic of Congo, but is now likely to be extended to a range of conflict regions from Myanmar to Afghanistan, according to officials.

The scheme will not cover diamonds and the proposal will still need to be approved by MEP’s and governments.

The EU is already part of the 50-member Kimberley Process, a government, industry and civil society initiative set up in 2002 to control the use of rough diamonds that fund rebel movements and human rights abuses.

It now wants to introduce a similar scheme for other minerals and make its disclosure rules binding for importers, although there is still internal debate on the issue, EU officials said.

The latest draft of De Gucht's proposal envisages only a voluntary scheme, according to officials familiar with the document.

Under the draft plan, shipments of minerals could be accompanied by a certificate to guarantee that they are conflict-free. Criteria to define a conflict-free mineral will be defined in detail and will have to be respected by the companies using the conflict-free label for their products.

The list of minerals affected by the procedure is also subject to negotiations and may become longer, or remain open for future additions.

Timeline: 
  • March 2014: Commission to present new proposal and communication on conflict minerals
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