Conflicts Mineral Rules in the EU
On May 17, 2017, the EU adopted Regulation (EU) 2017/821, laying down supply chain due diligence rules for Union importers of tin, tantalum, tungsten, their ores and gold from conflict-affected and high-risk areas. The aim is to limit the opportunities for armed groups and security forces to trade in tin, tantalum and tungsten, their ores and gold. This Regulation is based on the OECD Guidelines on Due Diligence. The rules for Due Dilligence apply from January 21, 2021.
From proposal to regulation
On March 5th, 2014, the European Commission proposed a draft regulation on conflict minerals. It suggested a voluntary system for proof of origin for raw materials and a self-certification scheme for companies importing tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold into the EU. Other than in the U.S. Dodd-Frank Act, there was no limit to certain countries of origin, the scheme should apply to all conflict and high-risk areas in the world. It excempted companies that do not import raw materials directly but only products containing the affected materials from the self-certification scheme. It was also suggested that the Commission publish "responsible smelters and refineries" and specific (e.g. financial) incentives to raise awareness of the topic and encourage self-certification.
The proposed EU self-certification scheme was based on existing guidelines developed by the OECD: EU importers of conflict minerals should perform due diligence which means avoid damage to the territories concerned and monitor and regulate their purchases and sales in accordance with the five steps of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance. These steps are:
- Set up reliable business management systems.
- Identify and evaluate the risks in the supply chain.
- Develop and implement a strategy for dealing with the identified risks.
- Conduct an independent third party review of supply chain due diligence at identified points in the supply chain.
- Create a supply chain due diligence report.
The DEVE (Development) Committee issued an opinion on the draft regulation on March 9, 2015, calling for a mandatory self-certification system for importers. The INTA Committee (Committee on International Trade and responsible for the introduction of the Regulation) also proposed a number of amendments during its vote on the draft on April 14, 2015. The members supported a mandatory system for importers.
On May 20, 2015, the European Parliament rejected the legislative proposal for voluntary self-certification. The Members of the Parliament requested provisions that are legally binding. All importers of conflict minerals, but also companies that process these minerals in their products, should be required to report. The MEPs also requested that smaller companies in particular be supported (e.g. financially) in developing their material reporting system accordingly.
The INTA Committee called for opening trilogue negotiations (between the EU Commission, Parliament and Council) on July 14, 2015 in order to reach an agreement at first reading. The first hearing took place on February 1st, 2016.
After several trilogue negotiations, it was publicly announced on June 16, 2016 that an agreement had been reached. This agreement goes as follows: Traders and importers of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold are required to establish Due Diligence. Manufacturing companies with more than 500 employees are encouraged to voluntarily disclose their supply chain. In a "manual for operators" the countries concerned will be listed, since the regulation applies to all "conflict-affected and high-risk areas". Non-compliance will be sanctioned.
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