Scottish MEP Alyn Smith has welcomed unprecedented rules to tackle the use of conflict minerals in common household goods. As the world’s largest market, European consumers have expressed frustration over everyday items, such as smart phones and computers, whose products partly come from war-torn countries.
Two years ago Alyn’s Dutch colleagues in the European Parliament united with civil society to bring more responsibility and accountability in the supply chain.
The agreement reached is a compromise between the European Parliament and the EU Council, representing the 28 Member States. Despite lobbying efforts to water down the initial draft from the mining industry, all EU importers of minerals and metals will have to report to national authorities by 2021 on the origin of their products, notably rare metals and gold.
Alyn, a member of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, said:
“This is an important victory for European consumers. As a lawyer by profession I understand there is a lot more to do so we can effectively say that our importers are doing their best to be ethically responsible in very difficult environments.
“The products we buy and use day and night are produced globally therefore we need to regulate at the relevant level, so EU action is welcome at this level. MEPs have met staunch supporters of tighter regulations on conflict minerals, from Global Witness to Amnesty International.
“I welcome more scrutiny. The importers will need to report accurately and fairly, EU and national authorities will need to closely look at the “choke-points” where our minerals and metals are about to be imported, when refiners and smelters play a key role.”
More information below:
Alyn has worked on the EU text since 2014, for more information and background on his conflict minerals work, please click here:
Amnesty and dozens of NGOs welcome the EU move:
Details over the official agreement, on the EU Council’s website:
Before this binding regulation at the EU level, non-binding OECD guidelines recommended companies to self-certify as having verified that they were not importing minerals and metals that were a source of conflict in their region of origin. This meant a tiny percentage of the industry made the effort. The European Parliament asked EU importers -which means any company that does business in the EU- to report and track their own supply chain, upstream and downstream, on a mandatory basis and by late 2019. After negotiations with the EU Council where the UK Government and the other 27 EU member states sit, the compromise reached this week is as follows:
- EU importers will be required to report, at national level, on due diligence of their upstream supply chain, including down to the “choke-points”. However that does not include the downstream producers and companies will have four, not two years to prepare.
- This agreement covers 95% of all EU imports of metals and minerals around the world. In order to avoid red-tape, only companies importing over 100 kilogrammes of gold a year will need to report, to use gold ore as an example, though other sensitive metals and minerals are concerned too: tin, tungsten, tantalum (jointly referred to the 3Ts in the industry). In 3 years the European Commission will be able to reconsider whether the exemption of 5% of importers, i.e. the ones importing less than 100kg a year, need to be partly incorporated, as some SMEs can play a very active role in the market.
- Finally, the EU regulation will establish a safe list of responsible smelters and refiners, though the checks to ensure the list is under sufficient scrutiny will need to be reinforced.