Conflict Minerals: The EU Parliament Puts Its Foot Down

The EU Parliament wants to reduce globally the import of minerals and metals from conflict areas and regions of high risk. Revenue from the sales of ore can finance corrupt regimes and provide weapons to groups of rebels. The Parliament considers the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region in Africa to be such regions.

At the end of May, the Parliament rejected a proposed law from the EU Commission that dealt with conflict materials. This proposal intended a free-will certification system for raw materials from conflict regions. Instead, the Parliament asked for legally binding rules for the import and processing of metals such as tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold ore.

The regulation affects some 880,000 firms, most of them small and midsize companies. They process the metals and manufacture consumer goods from them, especially for the automotive, aviation, electronics, packaging, building, lighting, machinery, and tool industries. In the future, the companies must follow the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas. Before the regulations go into effect, the Parliament and national governments must agree on a final legal text.

Because the obligatory certification being required represents a significant financial cost for many small and midsize businesses, the Parliament has asked the Commission to support them. Suggestions include the EU program for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME).

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