April 14, 2015 / 11:36 AM / 4 years ago

"Blood-free" minerals scheme must be binding, EU lawmakers say

* EU is a big market for gold, tin, tantalum, tungsten

* EU lawmakers want proposal toughened

By Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS, April 14 (Reuters) - European importers of minerals from conflict zones should be forced to certify their goods “blood-free”, an influential group of EU lawmakers said on Tuesday, seeking to toughen a proposal to prevent the financing of warlords in Africa.

Much of the gold, tantalum, tin and tungsten used in electronics and lighting is mined in areas of civil conflict in Africa and the European Commission, the EU executive, last year presented a plan for a voluntary certification scheme.

That would mean the approximately 420 companies that import all minerals for the 28-nation bloc could seek EU certification that their goods are conflict-free.

But the European Parliament’s trade committee wants to force smelters and refiners to certify their imports, voting 22 to 16 with two abstentions, to strengthen the draft law.

“It is vital that this legislation is binding for the key players in the supply chain, such as smelters and refineries, when they are processing minerals,” said Marielle de Sarnez, a French liberal on the committee. “We must not forget that the objective of this regulation shall be to permanently break the link between mineral exploitation and armed conflict.”

Binding legalisation is supported by rights groups such as Amnesty International and the trade committee vote will influence the full parliament when it takes a final position in May before any approval by all EU governments.

The Greens in the parliament want all companies throughout the supply chain, not just importers, to be required to be certify they have not had any links with warlords.

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 Commission says its plan is not limited to sub-Saharan Africa and could be applied across the world to places such as Colombia, where militias control some gold regions.

The scheme does not cover diamonds because the European Union is already part of the 50-member Kimberley Process, an initiative set up in 2002 to control the use of rough diamonds that fund rebel movements and human rights abuses. (Reporting by Robin Emmott, editing by David Evans)

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