The EU conflict minerals Regulation laying down supply-chain due diligence obligations for importers of tin, tantalum and tungsten, their ores, and gold (3TG) originating from conflict-affected and high-risk areas was published in the Official Journal of the European Union in May 2017. The Regulation establishes requirements which will come into force on 1 January 2021, giving those who fall within the scope time to put in place the steps to implement appropriate measures.
It has been recognised for some time that the mining and supply of minerals from certain conflict zones has enabled the funding of armed conflict and also involved human trafficking, labour exploitation, corruption and money laundering. There are several points in the supply chain of 3TG where there is the potential for sale proceeds to be used this way, for example, at the time of extraction and refinement. The overall aim of the conflict minerals Regulation is to ensure that 3TG from these areas is sourced in a responsible manner thereby helping to curb the funding of armed conflict and other forms of exploitation and corruption.
The Regulation has similar requirements to those in place since 2014 in the US and set out in section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act 2010. It covers:
- tin (cassiterite)
- tantalum (coltan)
- tungsten (wolframite)
- gold (and their ores)
In recent years, demand for 3TG has soared. It is used in a wide variety of products and passes through several layers of the supply chain. For example, it is found in consumer electronic devices, such as mobile phones, laptops and MP3 players. In the automotive sector it can be found in the component parts of audio equipment and climate control systems, in fuel tanks, in wiring and in radiators. Similarly, 3TG can be found in a range of medical devices.
The conflict minerals Regulation defines conflict and high-risk areas as “areas in a state of armed conflict, or fragile post-conflict areas, or areas with weak or non-existent governance and security, such as failed states; and in all cases, areas with widespread and systematic violations of international law, including human rights abuses.” Therefore, those covered may change depending on the geo-political landscape. The European Commission will publish a list of them and update it as and when
necessary. It is worth noting that the EU list is intended to be indicative rather than absolute.
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