Conflict minerals found in Scottish household staples like mobile phones, laptops and games consoles may be indirectly supporting slave labour, warned Alyn Smith, Scottish Member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
Like conflict diamonds, conflict minerals are sourced through opaque or illegal practices in unstable areas of the world.
Alyn has written to CEOs and senior directors of senior tech companies asking for confirmation that their products are sourced from ethical materials, and undertaken to praise those companies following ethical procurement routes and to expose those that are not.
This comes in the wake of the European Commission’s EU-wide strategy to crack down on the use of conflict minerals.
“I have had hundreds of constituents contacting me asking for my support on tackling this issue. The European Commission is working on setting up a voluntary self-certification system for importers but I think we can - and must - do more.
“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. 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.
“Many Scots will find it shocking that the ores of the ‘three T’s and gold’ can be found in everyday items ranging from mobile phones to hearing aids.
“Conflict minerals are a little-understood facet to procurement and it is positive that the world is waking up to the fact that we may be complicit in modern-day slavery.
“I want to see a mandatory scheme where compliance is visible to consumers and applicable all along the supply chain.
“The anti-slavery campaigners have shown that big business is willing to discuss the issue, and I’m heartened by the recent responses on supply chain responsibility from Apple and Hewlett-Packard. That’s why I’m asking other CEOs to let us all know what measures they have in place to ensure there is no slave labour or conflict minerals in the products they sell on the European market.”
Jo O’Neill of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund praised Alyn’s actions, adding:
“From our work on the ground in countries like Colombia and the DRC, SCIAF has witnessed how the global trade in minerals - like gold and tin - is fuelling violence, instability and misery. While the proposed legislation is a welcome recognition of this problem it must be strengthened if it is to meaningfully address the suffering of communities; this means replacing the voluntary proposal with binding requirements, compelling European companies all along the supply chain to source minerals responsibly.
“MEPs and Member States have an important opportunity to ensure companies do not profit from conflict. It must not be missed.”