European Union seeks to stem use of conflict minerals – by Francesco Guarascio (Reuters U.S. – February 5, 2014)

BRUSSELS, Feb 5 (Reuters) – The EU’s trade chief will present a voluntary scheme in March aimed at stemming the import of minerals from conflict zones and prevent mining them from financing war and strife, EU officials said on Wednesday.

Karel De Gucht’s proposal to the European Commission, the EU executive, will encompass gold, tungsten, tantalum and tin, in a bid to pressure importers to classify them as coming from areas free of conflict.

“Work is currently underway to prepare a proposal … for a comprehensive EU framework on responsible mineral sourcing in line with international guidelines,” said EU Trade spokesman John Clancy.

The United States defines the conflict mineral zone as the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighboring 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.

Tantalum is used in electronics, while tungsten is used in light bulb filaments. Initially devised to include only the Republic Democratic of Congo, as U.S. legislation does, the EU’s proposal is now likely to be extended to a range of conflict regions including Myanmar to Afghanistan, according to officials.

The scheme will not cover diamonds and the proposal will still need to be approved by EU lawmakers and governments.

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.

The European Union, which increasingly requires its trading partners to make commitments to political and human rights reforms, wants to introduce a similar scheme for other minerals and make its disclosure rules binding for importers, although there is still internal debate on the issue, EU officials said.

The latest draft of De Gucht’s proposal envisages only a voluntary participation in the conflict minerals scheme, according to officials familiar with the document.

Under the draft plan, shipments of minerals could be accompanied by a certificate to guarantee that they are conflict-free. Criteria to define a conflict-free mineral will be defined in detail and will have to be respected by the companies using the conflict-free label for their products.

The list of minerals affected by the procedure is also subject to negotiations and may become longer, or remain open for future additions.

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