The importance of collaborative partnerships in achieving responsible minerals supply chains

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Credit: Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation

By Julian Lageard, Director Government, Markets and Trade at Intel Corporation

Take a quick inventory of all the technology around you. If you own a smartphone, a laptop or desktop computer, a wearable smart device or even a microwave, there’s a good chance that those technologies were manufactured with some amount of tin, tungsten, tantalum or gold. In the world of minerals, these are often referred to as “3TG.”

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) classifies 3TG as conflict minerals while other organisations such as the EU and OECD refer to “responsible minerals” to cover other serious abuses in supply chains like forced labour and toxic pollution in mines.

In 2016, as the EU responsible minerals regulation was being finalised, the European Partnership for Responsible Minerals (EPRM) was established.

It is a not-for-profit public-private partnership bringing governments, supply chains actors (including downstream 3TG consuming sectors such as technology and automotive industry) as well as civil society together to accompany the EU Regulation.

The EPRM’s founding strategic partners were Philips, Solidaridad, Diakonia, Intel, the International Peace and Information Service (IPIS), the Netherlands and the UK. The EPRM goal is to increase the demand for and supply of 3TG from conflict-affected and high-risk areas (CAHRAs).

Since its inception, many organizations have joined and contributed to the collective efforts, bringing their own expertise and innovative ideas. Germany is the current EPRM chair and the OECD, European Commission (DEVCO) and UNEP are also part of the Partnership.

Even though the legal obligations under the EU Responsible Regulation do not go into effect until 1st, January 2021, the EPRM is not only operational but proactively working to ensure that the regulation is complied with to secure responsible sourcing and production.

By working together as a group rather than as individual interests, we helped develop, implement and finance projects that are delivering concrete results around the world, including:

  • The Artisanal Women’s Empowerment Credit and Savings Project (AFECCOR): This project promotes women’s economic empowerment by providing women (and men) in artisanal gold mining communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with access to credit and savings, as well as the ability to provide loans to members from savings group funds.
  • Tin Working Group (TWG): The TWG is working to implement responsible tin mining practices and international best practices in Indonesia. Currently, the TWG is focused on land reclamation and occupational health and safety efforts.
  • Mthandazo Women Miner’s Association: This project assists the Mthandazo and women gold miners in Zimbabwe in navigating risks and challenges that arise amid conflict. The scope of the project currently encompasses many activities, including the registration of women miner groups, legal training, dispute resolution, training in responsible sourcing, and much more.

We are already seeing the positive impact these projects have had on the lives and livelihoods of people in local communities. When considered separately, each of these projects on its own demonstrates the power of collaboration and innovative thinking in solving complex societal and environmental challenges.

When taken as a whole, the EPRM’s work proves that well-designed public-private partnerships can be a powerful accompanying tool to regulation and legislation.

Just as no one person or organization can implement all of EPRM’s projects, no one law can solve all the problems we face in conflict regions around the world. We must work together — across national divides — to create a smart mix of policy, regulation and implementation.

As an international technology company and a leader in global supply chain security, Intel has an interest in ensuring and facilitating the ethical, responsible and sustainable sourcing of 3TG and other materials, regardless of whether or not they impact our business directly.

It is clear that the role of collaborative partnerships is key which is why Intel decided to be one of the founding strategic partners of the EPRM.

In line with our 2030 RISE goals, part of our corporate responsibility is not only to the industry but also to our customers and the communities from which 3TG are sourced, many of them located in CAHRAs. Intel has committed to making all of its minerals supply chains responsible by 2030.

This is our opportunity to improve sustainability and make a positive change in the lives of people in local communities in higher-risk countries, such as Rwanda, Colombia, Indonesia and the DRC.

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