EU Announces Voluntary Scheme for Conflict Minerals

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March 5, 2014 - Kirsten Wallerstedt

On March 5 the European Union announced its proposal for responsible sourcing for minerals from conflict zones. The Regulation would require importers who “opt-in” to the self-certification scheme to exercise due diligence in line with the OECD Due Diligence Guidance.

The big question is – will this voluntary proposal have any teeth? The answer will be an immediate “yes” for companies that supply to EU government offices, which will adopt a “responsible sourcing” policy. Presumably other European government agencies and private companies will adopt policies of only sourcing from conflict-free importers, a step which would significantly increase the pull of the “self certification” option.

U.S. companies may well have a leg up to sell in Europe under the responsible sourcing scheme, since many of those that have had to comply with the U.S. law have already had to establish and conform their due diligence programs to the OECD Guidance.

Similar to the U.S. law, the aim of the EU proposal is to stop armed groups from financing their activities through the mining of and trade in minerals. The EU proposal also covers the same four minerals as its U.S. counterpart: tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold.

The EU will publish an annual list of EU and global ‘responsible smelters and refiners’ in an effort to increase public accountability and enhance supply chain transparency. The initiative also proposes a number of incentives to opt-in, including public procurement, financial support for small and medium sized enterprises to carry out due diligence, visible recognition for the efforts of EU companies who source responsibly, as well as involvement with the local governments and stakeholder groups to facilitate responsible mineral sourcing.

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