European companies benefiting from conflict mineral trade

A COALITION of rights groups has warned that the European Union is failing in its attempt to tackle the trade of minerals from deadly conflict areas.

Analysis carried out by the NGO coalition, which includes Global Witness and Amnesty International, says that companies are bringing billions of euros worth of minerals into Europe without having to disclose if their purchases finance armed groups or human rights violations in countries ravaged by conflict.

The warning comes ahead of draft legislation on mineral trade to be discussed in the European Parliament.

“At the moment we have no way of knowing what European companies are doing to avoid funding conflict or human rights abuses,” said Michael Gibb of Global Witness.

“The European commission has proposed legislation it claims will tackle the problem, but the draft law only goes so far as to suggest companies voluntarily check and declare the source of their minerals. Putting it starkly, this legislation will not meaningfully reduce the trade in conflict minerals.”

Only 0.05% of Europebased companies involved in the trade of minerals fall under the current legislation, which doesn’t currently cover companies that import consumer goods, such as laptops, mobile phones and cars, which contain the minerals in question.

The minerals, which can end up in these consumer products, if sourced without proper checks from conflict affected and highrisk areas, can be used to pay for armed groups and security forces who inflict insufferable violence on local communities.

The U.S. and a dozen central African countries have measures in place requiring companies to investigate their mineral supply chains, but the EU has none.

Companies in the EU are also currently not required to ensure that the proceeds from this trade do not end up in the wrong hands.

“There’s good reason to believe European companies are profiting from mineral trades that are filling the pockets of abusive armed groups in resourcerich countries like Congo and Colombia,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Director for Global Issues.

“The EU needs to come up with a meaningful law that effectively tackles the link between European trade and violent human rights abuses overseas.”

Gautier Muhindo Misonia, coordinator of the Centre for Research and Investigation into the Environment, Democracy and Human Rights, in DRC, said: “We urgently need a strong law in the EU which stops companies ignoring the harms their purchases fuel in countries like the Congo. International scrutiny of the sector has triggered real progress which the EU’s voluntary scheme would undermine. It would allow European companies to profit at the expense of local people.”

According to the coalition’s findings, the EU accounted for almost a quarter (€28.5 billion) of the global trade in ores and metals in 2013, while in the same year, 240 million mobile phones and over 100 million laptops were imported into the EU.

Germany is the largest importer of mobile phones and laptops in the EU, bringing in around 9.6 million laptops and 28.6 million mobile phones in 2013, worth €18.2 billion. The UK is the second largest importer of mobile phones and laptops; the Netherlands is third, and France is fourth.

A significant proportion of the EU’s mobile phone and laptop imports come from China, which import large quantities of minerals and metals for use in the manufacture of goods from Colombia, the DRC, Rwanda, and Burundi.

In 2013, China sourced 23 percent of its tantalum ores and concentrates from these four countries.

Originally published at on November 12, 2014.

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