Conflict Minerals
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Conflict Minerals

The minerals tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold are found in large volumes in the African Great Lakes Region and especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since they are used in the production of consumer goods such as mobile phones, cars and jewellery, these minerals hold great potential for development. However, in conflict-affected or high-risk areas, they can be a cause of dispute where their revenues fuel the outbreak or continuation of violent conflict.

Thus, companies involved in mining and trading in these minerals, are at risk of contributing to or being associated with adverse impacts such as human rights abuses, violence and conflict. By practising due diligence measures, companies can source responsibly, not contribute to conflict and instead generate income, growth and prosperity, sustain livelihoods and foster local development in the regions from which the minerals are sourced. Due diligence is in fact an on-going, proactive, and reactive process through which companies can ensure that they respect human rights and do not contribute to conflict. 

In 2017, the European Union signed into law the Conflict Minerals Regulation (EU) 2017/821​. This became fully applicable to union importers of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold in January 2021. The regulation is based on the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas​. The EU regulation is designed to provide transparency measures and certainty regarding the supply practices of Union importers, as well as smelters and refiners, sourcing from conflict-affected and high-risk areas.

Businesses wishing to import tin, tantalum, tungsten, or gold into the EU, above the volume thresholds set in Annex I of the EU Regulation, must comply with the due diligence obligations set out in the same Regulation. These obligations are:

1. draw up a supply chain policy and management system (Article 4)
2. conduct risk management (Article 5)
3. commission audits by independent third parties (Article 6)
4. fulfil disclosure obligations (Article 7)
5. keep the necessary documentation (Article 3) 
6. provide all assistance necessary to facilitate the carrying out of checks by the competent authorities and                grant access to their premises (Article 11)

The administration of each EU Member State must check whether importers of conflict minerals established in their jurisdiction respect the EU Regulation. The appointed competent authorities (Article 10) conduct annual ex-post checks to ensure compliance. This responsibility has been assigned to the Commerce Department through LN 200 of 2022. The same legal notice establishes a system of penalties in case of non-conformity by importers. 

To facilitate due-diligence efforts by Union importers of minerals and metals falling under Regulation (EU) 2017/821, the EU Commission:

- is in the process of establishing a register of recognized due diligence schemes that when effectively implemented by a Union importer of minerals or metals, enables that importer to comply with this Regulation (article 8).

- will also maintain a list of responsible smelters and refiners such that union importers who only source metals from those smelters and refiners may be exempt from certain audit obligations (Article 6). 

- has commissioned the setting up and regular updating of an indicative, but non-exhaustive, list of conflict-affected and high-risk areas​ (CAHRAs), (article 14.2). It must be noted that importers sourcing from areas which are not mentioned on the CAHRA list remain responsible to comply with the due diligence obligations under the Regulation