* 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,
but rights groups said it was too timid to stop the trade in
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 for 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.
Rights group Amnesty International said the EU proposal fell
short of expectations and that only binding legislation
requiring a wide range of EU-based companies to do checks on
their supply chains would work.
"Without a clear EU law that requires companies to do due
diligence and report publicly on it, the European Commission
will fail to bring EU companies up to the same responsible
sourcing standards as their American competitors," Amnesty said.
EurAc, a campaign group working in central Africa, said the
EU proposal was simply "not a sufficient response" to stop the
commercialisation of conflict minerals.
European officials say that creating an EU version of U.S.
law could lead importers to abandon Africa altogether and plunge
honest mining communities in those areas deeper into poverty.
AVOIDING AN AFRICAN BOYCOTT
The European Commission, the EU executive, says the U.S. law
already pressures companies to avoid buying conflict minerals.
Some listed companies have 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
"Before the minerals get spread across Europe to hundreds
and thousands of factories to be used in millions of products,
we focus on a critical point in the EU supply chain, the
importers of these minerals," De Gucht told a news conference.
"That is realistic to control."
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 could 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.