FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS – Responsible sourcing of minerals originating conflict-affected and high-risk areas: towards an integrated EU approach
Brussels, 5 March 2014
What are ‘conflict minerals’?
Profits from the extraction of and trade in minerals sourced from unstable regions affected by armed conflict can play a role in intensifying and perpetuating violent conflict. This can take various forms including where armed groups or their affiliates illegally control mines and mineral trading routes, use forced labour or commit other human rights abuses, or tax or extort money or minerals.
As a result, armed groups and security forces in conflict regions can finance their activities from the proceeds of mining and trading of minerals which later enter the global supply chain. Companies further down the production chain run the risk of supporting armed activities and have an interest in sourcing from such regions responsibly.
The best documented and known case relates to the problems in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the United Nations frequently reports on the devastating instability created by foreign and national armed groups generating revenues through their control over natural resources. The Heidelberg Institute for International Research estimates that, together, natural resources and conflict account for roughly 20% of global conflicts.
Under the US Dodd-Frank Act, section 1502, ‘conflict minerals’ are defined as minerals containing tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold originating in the DRC and the adjoining countries. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Due Diligence guidance is based on the same four minerals but is not geographically specific. The EU proposal uses the same basis as OECD.
What are ‘conflict minerals’ used for?
After mining, ‘conflict minerals’ are traded on local and international markets where smelters and refiners transform those minerals into metals. The metals are subsequently processed in the downstream section of the supply chain into components for a vast number of end products including cars, electronics like mobile phones, packaging, construction, aeronautics, and jewellery.
What are the goals of the EU approach?
One of the objectives of the EU’s proposal is to break the link between minerals extraction, minerals trading, and the financing of armed conflicts. The root causes of the problems must be identified, as should the triggers of conflicts and structural fragility, their dynamics, and the roles of the various actors involved… MORE