* EU seeks to compliment U.S. law, target importers
* Voluntary scheme could be extended to more minerals
* EU is a big market for gold, tin, tantalum, tungsten
By Robin Emmott
BRUSSELS, March 5 Importers of minerals from
conflict zones will be able to certify their goods have not
financed warlords under a European scheme proposed on Wednesday,
which would also help manufacturers show products are free of
Much of the gold, tantalum, tin and tungsten used in
electronics and lighting is mined in areas of civil conflict in
The European Union, which increasingly requires trading
partners to adopt political and human rights reforms, wants to
pressure importers to boycott the violent militias that control
the raw materials.
"We are committed to preventing international trade in
minerals from intensifying or perpetuating conflict," EU Trade
Commissioner Karel De Gucht and foreign policy chief Catherine
Ashton said in a joint statement.
Under the EU's voluntary scheme, which could come into force
by the end of next year, the approximately 420 companies that
import all minerals into the 28-nation bloc could seek EU
certification that their goods are conflict-free.
What's more, companies such as Apple or Siemens
that source metals from certified importers would be
eligible to bid for lucrative contracts across the EU's many
governments and institutions.
In the United States, the Dodd-Frank Act already obliges U.S
stock exchange-listed companies to disclose the use of minerals
from an African conflict zone in their supply chains.
European officials say that creating an EU version of that
law could lead importers to abandon Africa altogether and plunge
honest mining communities in those areas deeper into poverty.
The European Commission, the EU executive, says the U.S. law
already pressures companies to avoid buying conflict minerals.
AVOIDING AN AFRICAN BOYCOTT
Some listed companies have already switched their suppliers
to Australia, depressing the price of minerals such as tin by
half in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, according
to one EU official who has travelled to the region.
The Commission says its proposal, which must be approved by
EU governments and the European Parliament, compliments the
Dodd-Frank Act by targeting importers into the European Union,
one of the world's biggest markets for tin, tantalum, tungsten
"This is not a stand-alone proposal. But we don't want to
repeat what has already been done," the EU official said.
"Dodd-Frank takes care of downstream users, and the European
Union is taking care of the upstream."
The United States defines the conflict mineral zone as the
Democratic Republic of Congo and neighbouring countries
including Angola and South Sudan. They make up 17 percent of the
global production of tantalum, 4 percent of the global
production of tin, 3 percent of tungsten and 2 percent of gold.
The European Union says its proposal is not limited to
sub-Saharan Africa and could be applied across the world to
places such as Colombia, where militias control some remote gold
The scheme does not cover diamonds because the European
Union is already part of the 50-member Kimberley Process, a
government, industry and civil society initiative set up in 2002
to control the use of rough diamonds that fund rebel movements
and human rights abuses.
But the EU proposal could be extended to other minerals and
also become mandatory after three years if there is enough
support within the bloc.
Officials in Brussels estimate that implementing the
certification scheme will cost each importer about 13,500 euros
($18,600), or less than 1 percent of annual turnover.