Public consultation launched on conflict minerals

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EU seeks feedback on sourcing, transparency and supply chain issues.

The European Commission has launched a public consultation focused on responsible sourcing of minerals such as gold and gemstones originating from conflict-affected or high-risk areas.

The public consultation on "conflict minerals" aims to gain interested parties’ views on a potential EU initiative for responsible sourcing of minerals coming from conflict zones and high-risk areas – for example, war zones, post-war zones, and areas vulnerable to political instability or civil unrest.

The European Commission says it is seeking to better understand issues such as the sourcing and security of supply of minerals, supply chain transparency and good governance.

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In a statement released online the European Commission said: "We will use the results to help it decide whether and how, in a reasonable and effective manner, to complement and to continue on-going due diligence initiatives and support for good governance in mineral mining, especially in developing countries affected by conflict."

The public consultation is open until June 26 with full information and a questionnaire available to read online.

In reaction to the consultation the Birmingham Assay Office has asked whether the UK jewellery industry wants an EU legislative regulation – a law – "that might be a sort of version of the United States’ Dodd Frank Act". The Dodd Frank Act has covers restrictions of gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum originating from the DRC and adjoining countries.

At present the EU consultation does not specify which geographical areas or which particular minerals might be included though it is likely to concentrate on diamonds and gemstones.

Birmingham Assay Office has offered a second option of UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which have a voluntary code akin to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance.

A statement from the Birmingham Assay Office reads: "On one hand the collapse of the clothing factory building in Bangladesh suggests that voluntary codes of practice in relation to due diligence through the supply chain don’t work.

"On the other hand the Dodd Frank Act in the USA has triggered the law of unintended consequences, such that it has become so bureaucratic and onerous for legitimate suppliers to obtain gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum from the DRC and surrounding countries that they have abandoned sourcing from that area altogether, leading to a collapse in legitimate trade. This has inevitably been replaced by criminal activity and illegitimate trade to the detriment of the artisanal mining community and the countries as a whole."

Those who would like to offer their viewpoints can find the questionnaire online here. The public consultation closes on June 26.
 

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