DR Congo

Conflict minerals: preventing military groups from funding their activities

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Military groups in conflict areas such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo often use the sale of minerals found in their territory to fund their activities. A new EU proposal aims to put an end to this by setting up an EU system of self-certification to encourage importers, smelters and refiners to source their minerals responsibly. The Parliament's international trade committee will vote on the plans on Tuesday 14 April. Follow the vote live on our website.

In an effort to prevent mineral extraction from fuelling conflicts, the UN and the OECD have developed guidelines for companies sourcing minerals from conflict areas. The US has already introduced legally binding requirements for corporations, which so far focuses only on the areas around the African Great Lakes.

The European Commission has produced a proposal to limit the import of so-called conflict minerals. These are minerals such as tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold that come from countries and regions marked by armed conflict or that are at risk of conflict. The initiative attempts to set up a voluntary system in the EU for importers, smelters and refiners using these minerals.

It is now up to the European Parliament to scrutinise the proposal and amend, approve or reject as necessary. Romanian EPP member Iuliu Winkler, who is responsible for steering the legislation through the Parliament, said his goal was to help set up an efficient regulation to stop profits from the trade of minerals being used to fund armed conflict while promoting responsible sourcing from conflict-affected areas.

The Commission is proposing a voluntary system rather than a mandatory one. Winkler, who is also the vice-chair of the international trade committee, said it was not about whether voluntary or mandatory would work better: "The real challenge is that of elaborating an efficient, workable regulation.”

The draft regulation gives EU importers the opportunity to deepen ongoing efforts to ensure clean supply chains when trading legitimately with operators in conflict-affected countries. The EU intends to publish an annual list of responsible smelters and refiners to increase public accountability, boost supply chain transparency and facilitate responsible mineral sourcing. With more than 400 importers of such ores and metals, the EU is among the largest markets for tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold.

The international trade committee votes on Winkler's draft report on Tuesday 14 april at 10.00 CET. Follow it live on our website.

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