European Parliament surprise vote for stronger conflict minerals regulation

In a surprise move, the European Parliament recently voted to require all EU importers of four specific minerals to be certified to ensure they do not fuel conflicts and human rights abuses. MEPs backed a law covering not just European importers that sourced minerals from conflict zones, but also companies that used those four materials – tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold (3TG) – in the manufacturing process.

This was a significant, and somewhat unexpected, victory. The European Commission was recommending much weaker – and more limited – voluntary checks, no doubt at least partly in response to concerted lobbying from industrial concerns.

Kudos should be given to those campaign groups who worked on the issue, and who have praised the vote as a “historic moment”.

However, there are some caveats to this rosy picture. The first is that the legislative process is far from over. The Parliament has voted to enter into informal talks with the EU member states to seek agreement on the final version of the law, so much may change.

The successful amendments may improve the proposed law, but that could be because the starting point of the Commission proposals were so weak. Proposed provisions within the law from the EU’s Committee on International Trade (INTA) would have been hopelessly ineffective, with diligence obligations only for around 20 companies, while the EU is the second largest importer of laptops and mobile phones.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that the legislation concentrates only the 3TG commodities, that are synonymous with the conflict in the Congolese great lakes region. While legislation covering these commodities is important, failing to open up to other types of minerals is a missed opportunity. There were attempts to include diamonds, which were rejected, but even that is too limiting. How will that relate to, for instance, other gems and jade exported from conflict areas in Myanmar?

Also given the propensity of mining to cause conflict, the definition of what constitutes a conflict zone is surely too limited.

Yet, given the uphill struggle to get even these due diligence measures agreed, any future advocacy is likely to be a struggle to hold onto legislative gains rather than seeking to make any law more useful.


EU lawmakers surprise with vote on ‘blood metals’ ban

Cecilia Jamasmie

Mining.com

20 May 2015

The European Parliament unexpectedly voted Wednesday in favour of banning all products that contain conflict minerals from war zones in Africa, in a fresh effort to eliminate them completely from the European supply chain.

The main objective of the legislation is to ensure that profits from those so-called “blood metals” — tungsten, tin, tantalum and gold — do not go to warlords in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The lawmakers voted 402 to 118, with 171 abstentions, to make it mandatory for firms that buy such metals to certify their origin. The parliament had been expected to pass a watered down motion that would have made it largely voluntary for companies in Europe to responsibly source the materials from conflict areas.

The decision now has to be discussed with the member states and the European Commission, the executive of the 28-member EU, the European Parliament said in a statement.

However, experts fear EU governments will block the tougher legislation as it could be seen as an unrealistic burden on business.

Tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold are used in many consumer products in the EU, in particular by the automotive, electronics, aerospace, packaging, construction, lighting, industrial machinery and tooling industries, as well as in jewellery. The upcoming law potentially affects 880,000 EU manufacturers, most of which are small or medium-sized.

Officials said the standards will be based on the OECD Due Diligence Guidance recommendations, which are designed to help companies respect human rights and avoid contributing to conflict through their mineral purchases from conflict-affected and high-risk areas.


MEPs back tougher gold checks under ‘blood minerals’ laws

BBC News

20 May 2015

The trade in gold, tin and other minerals fuels conflict in many areas, say rights groups

Euro MPs have called for companies to carry out mandatory checks to stop “conflict minerals” entering Europe from war zones.

In an unexpected move, the European Parliament voted to require all EU importers of four minerals to be certified to ensure they do not fuel conflicts and human rights abuses.

The European Commission had recommended that checks be only voluntary.

Human rights groups praised the vote as a “historic moment”.

The decision will now be discussed by member states and the European Commission

Amnesty International and Global Witness had originally warned that a voluntary system covering European businesses would have watered down the proposals.

Before the vote, the two groups were among more than 150 which signed a letter calling for binding rules that focused on more manufacturers and more materials.

MEPs decided to back a law covering not just European importers that sourced minerals from conflict zones but also companies that used the four materials – tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold – in the manufacturing process.

While an estimated 20 refineries and smelters would be directly affected, the EU also estimates as many as 880,000 firms would have to provide details on the measures they take to avoid the use of minerals from conflict areas such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes area of East Africa.

Many tech gadgets such as smartphones use conflict materials, so-called because they are mined in warlike conditions and traded by armed groups.

Campaigners had earlier complained that the scheme did not cover minerals and materials such as diamonds, jade and chromite, which are also known to be sources of conflict.


European Parliament defies lobbying to vote for strong conflict minerals regulation

Amnesty International & Global Witness Joint Newsflash

20 May 2015

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have made history today by voting in favour of a strong and binding law to tackle the deadly trade in conflict minerals, said Amnesty International and Global Witness.

Today’s vote determines the position with which the European Parliament (EP) enters into negotiations with Member States and the Commission to find an agreement on the law.

“This is a historic moment. MEPs have voted for a law that should make a real difference to the lives of those suffering under the trade in conflict minerals”, said Michael Gibb of Global Witness “Despite concerted efforts by big business to weaken the legislation, MEPs have clearly positioned themselves for a strong, binding law that is fit for purpose. This would put Europe at the helm of global efforts to clean up the minerals trade and encourage businesses to source minerals in a way that benefits local communities, not armed groups.”

“The European Parliament has sent a clear signal. European firms cannot turn a blind eye to the risk their operations contribute to human rights abuses abroad,” said Lucy Graham, legal advisor in Amnesty International’s Business and Human Rights team. “If the European Council follows suit, this law would represent a sea change in what is expected of companies when the minerals in their products come from countries riven by conflict.”

The groundbreaking proposal would require European companies importing four key minerals – tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold – to ensure their purchases are not contributing to conflict or human rights abuses in other countries. Crucially, the new law would also require European companies importing minerals in products, such as laptops and mobile phones, to source minerals responsibly for the first time.

Today’s vote determines the position with which the European Parliament (EP) enters into negotiations with Member States and Commission to find an agreement on the law.

For further information, please see yesterday’s press release: European Parliament looks set to cave in to big business over conflict minerals trade – https://www.amnesty.org/press-releases/2015/05/european-parliament-looks-set-to-cave-in-to-big-business-over-conflict-minerals-trade-1/

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Stefanie Mair
Media & Communications Assistant
Amnesty International European Institutions Office
Email: aieur-comms[at]amnesty.eu
Telephone: +32 (0)2 548 27 73


No to Blood on Our Hands, No to Conflict Minerals

Jude Kirton-Darling,

Labour Member of the European Parliament for the North East of England

Huffington Post blog

20 May 2015

Socialist and Democrat Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) achieved an historic victory in Strasbourg this afternoon (Wednesday 20 May 2015), narrowly passing a vote that will ensure the European Union (EU) no longer trades in minerals that fuel conflict and violence.

For years the extraction, production and trade of minerals such as gold and tin have financed conflicts in some of the poorest regions of the world and lined the pockets of armed groups and military forces that have perpetuated unimaginable violence and human rights abuses. With very few rules in place to prevent these minerals from making their way to the UK and EU, they can be found everywhere across Member States, hidden in the jewellery we wear and the mobile phones we use every day.

Today marks an important first step in removing conflict minerals from the EU market and ensuring that we no longer have blood on our hands.

The EU has long led the way in legislating to guarantee traceability across food and natural resource supply chains and to prevent the entry of blood diamonds and illegal timber into the European market. Minerals will now be added to that list, bringing us closer to achieving our aim of promoting fair trade, protecting human rights and helping alleviate conflicts across the world.

Socialists and Democrats in the Parliament refused to accept a scheme proposed by the European Commission that was startling in its lack of ambition and scope, and which would have left EU legislation on the trade of minerals seriously lagging behind that of our American counterparts. We were not prepared to settle for an ineffectual system of voluntary compliance. We rejected legislation that limited regulation to importers, so excluding 99.95% of EU companies that trade or process such minerals and exposing EU smelters and refiners to unfair competition from unregulated companies operating outside of Europe.

Our proposals sought to make due diligence mandatory for all key companies involved in the minerals trade, from smelters to retailers, while taking into account their size and position in the supply chain. We also proposed a mechanism to expand the material scope of the regulation beyond gold and the ‘3Ts’ (tin, tantalum and tungsten) in the future so that if a new mineral or metal is found to be linked with conflict and violence, it too will be included on the list of resources subject to EU legislation.

We know that it is only by applying rules equally across the entire supply chain, from mine to end product, that we can truly remove conflict minerals from the EU market, while at the same time ensure fairness and avoid a negative impact on jobs and economic development. This belief is backed by the hundreds of emails my Labour colleagues and I have received from concerned constituents urging MEPs to act.

The European Labour Party has, backed by our progressive colleagues, worked for months to build consensus among MEPs, supported by campaign groups, NGOs and churches active in Africa’s great lakes region. Despite an uncompromising opposition from right wing factions in the European Parliament, who sought to block legislation at any cost, our hard work has paid off: we managed to convince enough MEPs to break ranks and put the promotion of human rights, peace and stability above profit margins.

The fight, however, is not yet over: we now need to get the support of a majority of the EU’s 28 Member States before this important piece of legislation can be enacted. I hope that our own UK government will find itself on the principled side of this argument.

Jude Kirton-Darling is Labour MEP for the North East of England


Draft Regulation on responsible mineral sourcing: The European Parliament calls unambiguously for binding due diligence requirements covering the whole mineral supply chains!

EurAc press release

20 May 2015

The European Network for Central Africa (EurAc) welcomes todays’ European Parliament vote in Strasbourg demanding additional binding rules for companies importing minerals coming from conflict-affected and high risk areas into the EU market in raw form or as part of components or final products. This vote represents a great victory as a majority of the Members of the Parliament (MEPs) have put the protection of human rights above narrow economic interests.

“But the war is not won”, says EurAc President Nicolas Van Nuffel, “we call on the Council and the Commission to take into consideration the Parliament’s position now that will start the Trialogue discussions”. The EU legislative initiative needs to tackle the entire trade effectively in order to help break the links between the minerals trade, conflict and human rights abuses.

Trade in tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold (3TG) is fuelling conflicts which have had devastating consequences for people in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Colombia. By requesting mandatory compliance for “all EU importers” sourcing in conflict areas, including the “downstream” ones, MEPs overturned the weak Commission and international trade (INTA) committee’s proposals.

While time is still needed to analyse in details the technical implications of each one of the numerous amendments adopted today, European Parliament’s call is unambiguous. It calls for a comprehensive scope and approach and it shows that the EU can align better with international standards on responsible sourcing and complement existing binding rules adopted by the US and several African countries, including DRC.

Contact and information: frederic.triest[at]eurac-network.org ; +32 490 43 76 70.


Conflict minerals: MEPs ask for mandatory certification of EU importers

Plenary Session Press release – External/international trade

20 May 2015

EU importers of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold for manufacturing consumer goods need to be certified by the EU to ensure that they do not fuel conflicts and human rights abuses in conflict areas, say MEPs in their position on a draft law adopted on Wednesday by 402 votes to 118, with 171 abstentions.

Parliament voted by 400 votes to 285, with 7 abstentions, to overturn the Commission’s proposal as well as the one adopted by the international trade committee and requested mandatory compliance for “all Union importers” sourcing in conflict areas.

In addition, “downstream” companies, that is, the 880,000 potentially affected EU firms that use tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold in manufacturing consumer products, will be obliged to provide information on the steps they take to identify and address risks in their supply chains for the minerals and metals concerned.

Request for mandatory certification

As metal smelters and gold refiners are the last point at which the minerals’ origin can be effectively traced, MEPs go beyond the Commission’s “self-certification” approach and call for smelters and refiners to undergo a compulsory, independent, third-party audit to check their “due diligence” practices.

Parliament also asks the Commission to grant financial support to micro-businesses and small and medium-sized firms wishing to obtain certification through the EU’s COSME programme (EU programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises).

Strengthened review clause

Parliament also insists on tougher monitoring of the scheme, with a review two years after it is applied and every three years thereafter (instead of after three and six years respectively, as planned by Commission)

Geographical scope

The regulation applies to all conflict-affected high risk areas in the world, of which the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes area are the most obvious example. The draft law defines ‘conflict-affected and high-risk areas’ as those in a state of armed conflict, with widespread violence, the collapse of civil infrastructure, fragile post-conflict areas and areas of weak or non-existent governance and security, characterised by “widespread and systematic violations of human rights”.

Next steps

In a vote of 343 votes to 331, with 9 abstentions, Parliament decided not to close the first reading position and to enter into informal talks with the EU member states to seek agreement on the final version of the law.

Note to Editors

Tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold are used in many consumer products in the EU, in particular by the automotive, electronics, aerospace, packaging, construction, lighting, industrial machinery and tooling industries, as well as in jewellery. The upcoming law potentially affects 880,000 EU manufacturers, most of which are small or medium-sized.

EU “Supply-Chain Due Diligence” standards will be based on the OECD Due Diligence Guidance recommendations, which are designed to help companies respect human rights and avoid contributing to conflict through their mineral purchases from conflict-affected and high-risk areas.

Procedure: Ordinary legislative procedure, 1st reading
REF. : 20150513IPR55318
Updated: ( 20-05-2015 – 16:21)


Green MEP reaction to European Parliament conflict minerals vote

Press Release

EU legislation aimed at preventing conflict minerals in supply chains was voted through today by MEPs in the European Parliament.

Greens had previously criticised the failure to ensure the rules apply throughout the supply chain however an amendment in favour of binding transparency rules for the entire supply chain was accepted.

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England, said:

“The superb result of today’s vote just goes to show how Europe can be a major force for good when countries and political parties from across Europe work together. The only way to effectively break the link with conflict financing is by creating a mandatory scheme for all companies that place these minerals on the European market. I’m pleased that MEPs from across the political spectrum have shown they understand this by voting in favour of binding transparency rules throughout the entire supply chain”.

Ends

For more information or to request an interview please contact:

Joe Ryle
Media Officer
Office of Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England
CAN Mezzanine
49-51 East Road
London
N1 6AH, UK
Office: 0207 250 8418
Mobile: 07940 500633
Email: keithpress[at]greenmeps.org.uk
www.keithtaylormep.org.uk
Twitter: @GreenKeithMEP

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