Rights groups criticise EU ‘conflict minerals’ law

Rights groups claim proposed law to limit trade of conflict minerals too ‘weak’ ahead of European Parliament vote

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Over 150 rights groups have signed a joint letter addressed to the European Parliament calling for stricter limitations on the sale of conflict minerals, arguing a proposed law will fail to slow the illegal trade.

The rights groups claim the law, which will be voted on by the European Commission on Tuesday, is “weak” as it only binds firms to clean-up their supply chain on a voluntary basis and does not cover enough manufacturers.

“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 form 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.

Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth, Global Witness, Christian Aid and the Ethical Consumer Research Association were among the many organisations to sign the letter, which warns that the trade in conflict minerals funds rights abuses around the world.

“As long as an illicit industry can flourish unchecked, the trade in conflict minerals will supply funds and motivation to violent and abusive actors,”  said the letter. “Inaction and irresponsible business comes at a serious cost.”

The letter also warned that those who bear the cost of “weak efforts” to regulate the trading of conflict minerals are “some of the poorest and most vulnerable citizens of the world."

Many products, including smartphones and tablets imported from China that use conflict minerals in their devices, will not be covered by the law.

TRTWorld and agencies