A press release from the European Parliament (available here) declared that yesterdays vote in the International Trade Committee (INTA) regarding amendments to the proposed EU system for management of ‘conflict minerals’ beefed up rules to ‘stem the flow of conflict mineral money to armed groups’. However, a joint civil society statement published by Global Witness explained that INTA had ‘wasted a ground-breaking opportunity’ and voted for a ‘weak and ineffective law’ that, if passed, would require only a tiny number of companies importing four key minerals into Europe to source responsibly. The INTA vote, approved by 22 votes to 16, with 2 abstentions, is a key step in the legislative process towards finalising the EU law, with the entire Parliament due to make a final vote later in May.
While it seems that INTA has supported a regulatory approach for certification of EU smelters and refiners there is no clarity on how such a system will add anything but paperwork to existing smelter audit programmes, nor why importers of certain alloys may illogically be included within the scope. The Committee also introduced the idea of a responsible company label for downstream manufacturers even though labelling issues under Dodd Frank were the underlying cause of the devastating embargo on central Africa. The proposal is currently directed at tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold from high risk areas worldwide, yet INTA did not decide to regulate other minerals or resources sourced from the same areas which also potentially fund conflict, nor to require the downstream portion of the supply chain to participate in the EU system.
The amendments agreed by INTA follow a weak legislative proposal put forward by the European Commission Trade Directorate in March last year and, as stated by the civil society group, are likely to ‘have virtually no impact on companies’ sourcing behaviour’. Last month, the European Parliament’s Development Committee (DEVE) voted overwhelmingly in favour of a mandatory regime for all companies in the supply chain which, unlike the INTA amendments, would reflect the scope of the internationally agreed OECD due diligence guidance which is relevant to all minerals around the world.