In recent years conflict mineral discussion has been on the increase, and with the controversial Dodd Frank Act often debated, the European Union have had a lot of negotiations regarding regulations and trade rules.
On the 22nd November 2016, the EU reached an agreement on an EU regulation on the issue of conflict minerals, aiming to “stop the financing of armed groups”. in developing nations through 3TG minerals trade. The regulation is said to be enough to ensure the majority of 3TG minerals are traded responsibly and the supply chain is tracked properly.
This is a great step for the EU in regards to conflict minerals. However, it is half-hearted. The EU regulation focuses on raw materials, not finished products. Therefore, companies who do not hold product manufacturing factories within the EU can import conflict minerals, if they are already a component of a finished product. The amount of 3TG minerals in finished products coming to the EU will be unknown, and is a loophole in which conflict minerals can still be used in technology products. The EU Commission will, in their words, “press big manufacturers to disclose details of products that might contain conflict minerals.”(EU Commission)
‘Pressing’ big manufacturers is not necessarily going to get results. Unless due diligence of a products full supply chain is in regulation law, companies are not required by EU law to report conflict minerals in finished products. Activists and campaigners believe this is necessary to stop conflict minerals reaching the EU at all, and to encourage companies to support legal, fair trade mining – resulting in no conflict minerals. Just fair traded minerals.
The EU regulation also exempts smaller importers, such as jewellers and dentists, so that their businesses are not restrained by the high due diligence costs involved with this new regulation. This has been criticised for opening a loophole to possible trade of conflict minerals through small importers. Nele Meyer from Amnesty International said…
It is noticeable that the EU are not pushing companies or government to help aid direct projects in the DRC, the recent regulation is solely focused on due diligence, and not helping fund or support sustainable mining in the DRC. In fact, the regulation is focused on due diligence of all 3TG minerals entering the EU, from all countries, therefore any direct projects in the DRC being aided by this regulation is unlikely.
There is no denying the EU regulation is a step in the right direction. Strict laws, regulations and governmental discussions are needed. Therefore, the EU is doing a good thing. However, not enough. The DRC need more than EU regulation and due diligence. To truly stop conflict due to minerals in the DRC, the EU need to provide regulation, laws, and support to the DRC and help sustain projects on the ground with locals and Congolese officials. Without so, loopholes will be exploited and Congolese armed groups and corruption will continue to find a way to exploit people in the DRC.