Alyn Smith MEP has continued his fight against the use of slave labour in Scottish household items by backing urgent amendments in the European Commission’s proposal on conflict minerals.
Like conflict diamonds, conflict minerals are sourced through opaque or illegal practices in unstable areas of the world. In areas such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold are sourced in conditions of extreme exploitation, violence and slavery. Known as ‘the three T’s and gold’, they are used in everyday items, such as mobile phones and digital cameras.
Alyn, a member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said:
“MEPs will be voting on a voluntary system of supply chain due diligence self-certification. But this will only cover the 19 smelters based in the EU, or 5% of the world's total. These smelters are already covered by the Frank-Dodd Act, which makes it mandatory for companies to carry out a due diligence review of their supply chain if they believe any of their tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold comes from the DRC.
“Last year, I wrote to several tech companies, including Apple and Nintendo, to ask what they were doing to ensure no slave labour went into their products. While I commend these companies on their responses, which emphasised regular audits and the measures they have in place to verity that their smelters are conflict free, the trade in conflict minerals continues.
“According to the International Peace Information Service (IPIS), armed groups are present at more than half of all mining sites in the DRC, where the local population is illegally coerced into working in the mines, and controlled by rape and violence.
“This leads me to conclude that the only way we can completely eradicate slave labour in the supply chain is to push for a mandatory self-certification system in all Conflict-Affected and High-Risk areas. That’s why my group is working on some urgent amendments to the report.
“The EU can be a tremendously powerful force in using soft power and trade to improve the lives of the most vulnerable, and that’s why we can’t throw a voluntary system at the problem of conflict minerals and pretend it’s going to fix everything. We must not sit by and allow slavery to continue.”
Alistair Dutton of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) added:
“The global trade in many minerals used in our electronics is worth billions of pounds and much of that trade takes place in Europe. Yet there is no law in the European Union (EU) forcing companies to make sure the minerals they use have not funded violence.
“We believe the law must be stronger and include all businesses that import parts and finished products into the EU. The materials covered should also include any that are mined or come from trade that may contribute to human rights abuses and conflict.”
Alyn previously contacted top tech companies to ask how they ensured their supply chain was free from conflict minerals. Their responses are available here.