Catholic aid network urges European action on conflict minerals (Catholic Sentinel – March 17, 2015)

OXFORD, England — An international consortium of Catholic aid agencies charged that European businesses are causing suffering and death by importing minerals from regions of the world experiencing armed conflict.

The Brussels-based International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity, or CIDSE, demanded firmer action by businesses to ensure that minerals used in consumer products such as cellphones and laptop computers are responsibly sourced.

“The exploitation and trade of natural resources finances armed groups responsible for serious abuses of local populations. We can all take action to end this violence,” said the CIDSE statement released March 9.

“In sourcing resources from conflict-affected or high-risk areas, European businesses risk fueling violence to the detriment of human rights, peace and development. In this way, blood minerals find their way into our computers, telephones and cars,” CIDSE said.

The statement was released ahead of March18-19 discussions in the European Parliament of a draft law, developed by the European Union’s governing commission, to control minerals from conflict-torn regions.

It said civilians in Congo had suffered “mutilation, massacres, rape, slavery and massive displacement” during 15 years of war, at the hands of armed groups financed by “riches of the subsoil.”

European firms also have been accused of allowing trade in resources to perpetuate human rights violations in countries such as Colombia, Zimbabwe and Myanmar.

CIDSE, representing 17 aid groups from Europe and North America, said the proposed law would be “largely insufficient” because it named only 480 European companies and merely “encouraged” them to “investigate their supply chains.”

The consortium said the law also applied to just four minerals — tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold — and excluded copper, jade, rubies, coal, diamonds and other resources that also “contribute to abuses.”

A CIDSE staff member predicted public pressure would lead to a tighter EU law.

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