The European parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Wednesday voted in favour of a new law to ban all conflict mineral products to ensure firms do not use materials sold by African warlords.
Three hundred and seventy eight parliamentary members voted in favor of the law, versus 300 against and 11 abstentions.
The ban follows a joint letter signed by over 150 rights groups addressed to the European parliament calling for stricter limitations on the sale of conflict minerals, which argued that a previously proposed law will fail to slow the illegal trade.
As a requirement of the law, companies which buy gold, tantalum, tin and tungsten must certify that imports of these materials are not financing warlords in Africa.
Following a surprise result of in favour of the ban, Member of the Greens/European Free Alliance, German Ska Keller tweeted, “Parliament votes for mandatory transparency against conflict minerals. Big success!”
Socialist Gianni Pittella of Italy, who leads the second biggest bloc in the assembly, said "I must confess that it's been one of the most intense moments I've experienced since becoming a member of the European parliament."
"The fact that this got through is a source of great satisfaction," added Pittella.
Earlier this week, on May 18, rights groups had claimed that the law which has been passed is “weak” and only binds firms to clean-up their supply chain on a voluntary basis and does not cover enough manufactures.
“It is entirely voluntary, giving 300-400 importers of those minerals the option of sourcing responsibly and reporting publicly on their efforts to do so, through a process known as ‘supply chain due diligence,’ ” the groups argue.
They also argue the law is too specific regarding the type of materials being traded, as it only covers the raw forms of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold - for which the EU was responsible for a quarter of imports in 2013.
Materials such as diamonds, jade and chromite are excluded by the law despite being located in regions of conflict.
The Democratic Republic of Congo and neighbouring countries including Angola and South Sudan have been defined as being in a zone of conflict mineral harvesting by the United States.