Conflict Minerals Update: EU Regulations

September 16, 2021 | Insights,

What are conflict minerals?

The EU regulation covers tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold because these are the four minerals that are most often linked to armed-conflicts and related human rights abuses.

On January 1st 2021, a new EU regulation for four conflict minerals came into effect. This regulation requires EU importers of these metals and minerals (Gold, Tungsten, Tin and Tantalum) to ensure they use only responsible and conflict-free sources.

“The 3Ts” (tantalum, tin, and tungsten) and gold (“3TG”) are crucial in the components of many consumer electronic products and have applications in aerospace, automotive, medical and other sectors. They often ending up in everyday products including cars, mobile phones, laptops, and jewellery.

The mining of these elements has been linked to the advancement of armed conflict and human rights abuses, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region of Africa. The Regulation requires EU importers to conduct robust due diligence in their supply chains in order to cut off the flow of finance to the mines controlled by rebel groups committing these abuses.

Companies can knowingly or sometimes unknowingly be affected by having them in their supply chains.

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About the EU Conflict Minerals Regulation (2017/821)

In May of 2017, the European Union published its final version of its Conflict Minerals Regulation and is driven by the goal of promoting responsible sourcing of minerals.

The EU regulation entered into force on June 8, 2017.  Although the regulation is primarily directed toward importers who will needed to take action by January 1 of 2021, it is expected that many other companies in the supply chain will be impacted by the reporting process.

Along with the EU conflict minerals, the strategic battery action plan proposed by the European Commission to identify some clear work streams on responsible sourcing on batteries.

 

What risks does the legislation hope to address?

these minerals’ mining and trade have become ever-more lucrative as a result of the prevalence and applicability of these materials in modern consumer products and engineering systems. This has increased the number of armed groups and criminals seeking to control them to finance their activities. De-funding these armed militias is the primary goal of the new regulation. It is the ambition of this regulation to reduce armed conflicts and human rights abuses surrounding these minerals.

 While the legislations addresses human rights crisis, this also links to climate change which is the great environmental emergency of our time, This includes measures that governments must take to tackle this crisis to urgently  shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and green technologies and one way of capturing this is through batteries .The proposed battery regulation in due to come to effect in Jan 2022 looks at mandatory requirements on supply chain management. Chargeable industrial batteries and electric vehicles batteries (over 2kWh) on the market would be required to adopt due diligence policies for supply chains of cobalt, natural graphite, lithium, nickel and other chemical compounds.  The risk management measures and third-party audit principles would need to be consistent with OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals for Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas

 

The EU regulation aims to:

  • ensure that EU importers of 3TG meet international responsible sourcing standards, set by the OECD;
  • ensure that global and EU smelters and refiners of 3TG source responsibly;
  • help break the link between conflict and the illegal exploitation of minerals; and
  • help put an end to the exploitation and abuse of local communities, including mine workers, and support local development.

When minerals do come from conflict-affected and high-risk areas, the regulation requires importers to provide extra information, such as the specific mine, where the minerals were consolidated, traded and processed; as well as taxes, fees and royalties.

It is crucial to bear in mind that the scope of minerals covered by the new regulation is likely to be expanded. The EU will carry out an assessment to determine which minerals should be added. Cobalt in particular is likely to be included, due to its importance in creating the lithium-ion batteries needed to support the transition to low-carbon economies.

EU Conflict Minerals Regulation Description

Summary of EU Regulation and activities:

The Conflict Minerals Regulation requires EU-based importers of 3TG to ensure their minerals are sourced responsibly. EU Importers must: identify risks, design supply chain strategies, establish strong management systems, carry out third party audits for supply chain due diligence, and report annually.

The regulation also indirectly affects around 500 smelters and refiners globally. Companies that use 3TG minerals in their products (i.e. non-importers, such as manufacturers) do not have obligations under the regulation. However they are invited to publish information about their due diligence activities.

Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas The EU Regulation is not specific in defining regions or countries considered to be “conflict countries.” Instead, it introduces a concept called “Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas” (CAHRAs). It is left to importers to determine during their investigation whether their sources of the minerals are in fact CAHRAs. Thus, the EU regulation is global in scope, however specific areas have been identified.

The countries or areas considered to be conflict-affected or high-risk are those:

  • Whose natural resources include minerals which are in high demand, either locally, regionally of globally.

and

  • Are either suffering from armed-conflict, such as civil war, a state of fragile post-conflict, or witnessing weak or non-existing governance and systematic violations of international law, including human rights abuses.

 

Do I have to report anything?

Article 7 of the Regulation requires EU importers to make available to their downstream purchasers all information gained and maintained through their supply chain due diligence. Importers must also “publicly report as widely as possible” including via their website on their supply chain due diligence policies and practices. This must include steps taken to implement the management system, details for their risk management approach, and a summary report of the third party audits undertaken each year. The public report should be updated annually.

The exact format and content of reporting by importers of 3TG is not specified by the EU Regulation, although a reporting guideline has been released. The report should demonstrate that the importing company has performed an investigation and taken appropriate action under the regulation, following the OECD Due Diligence Guidance 5 step approach.

Notable industry initiatives include:

  • The International Tin Supply Chain Initiative (ITSCI);
  • The Responsible Gold Mining Principles developed by the World Gold Council;
  • The responsible sourcing protocols launched by the London Metal Exchange.
  • End users of minerals, such as manufacturers, electronics and technology companies, also have the Responsible Minerals Initiative

Upstream & Downstream Reporting

The production of goods often involves many different companies engaged in various types of activity along the supply chain. Firms that extract, process and refine raw materials are called ‘upstream‘ companies and are defined by the regulation as:

  • mining companies;
  • raw material traders;
  • smelters; and
  • refiners.

Other ‘downstream’ companies further process metals produced during the upstream stage into a finished product. The downstream stage includes the sale of the product to other businesses, governments or private individuals.

  • Upstream companies have to comply with mandatory rules on due diligence when they import, as this is the most risky part of the supply chain.
  • Downstream companies fall into two categories:
    • those importing metal-stage products  also have to meet mandatory due diligence rules; and
    • those operating beyond the metal stage do not have obligations under the regulation, but they are expected to use reporting and other tools to make their due diligence more transparent, including, for many large companies, those in the non-financial reporting directive.

 

EU & Industry Initiatives to Help

The EU is developing programs to assist importers to comply including;

  • Guidance documents for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) assisting them in complying with the Regulation
  • Reporting Guidelines
  • Contracts to organisations to fund projects that will assist smelters and mines to become conflict-free
  • Guidance documents to assist importers to identify CAHRAs
  • A non-comprehensive list of CAHRAs
  • EU list of responsible smelters/refiners, a so-called “white list”

What about outside of the EU?

  • Dodd Frank Act – The US also has legislation on conflict minerals: Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Act of 2010 that covers the same four products.
  • Several African countries (DRC, Rwanda) have passed laws requiring companies to check their supply chains.
  • China Chamber of commerce of Metals Minerals & Chemicals Importers & Exporters – Chinese DD Guidelines for Responsible Mineral Supply Chains.
  • What about Brexit? No, it still applies to the UK.

In 2011 United Nations members unanimously endorsed Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, which state that companies have a responsibility to make sure their activities do not contribute to harm and abuses. Since 2011 the OECD has issued guidance on responsible sourcing for companies operating in its member countries. The OECD Due Diligence Guidance is considered as the international standard to help companies carry out their obligations.

Conclusion

The EU regulation will directly apply to companies that import tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold minerals and metals into the EU, no matter where they originate. The EU has identified 600 to 1000 companies that are likely to fall into this reporting requirement. Many other companies will be indirectly affected by this reporting requirement and will be asked to support those direct reporting companies in their reporting effort.

The regulation does not require reporting by manufacturing companies that have conflict minerals in their products, although voluntary reporting by manufacturing companies is encouraged, and it is likely that many will choose to support voluntary reporting. There is already growing pressure on these manufacturing companies by non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

 

Practical next steps

  • Evaluate if 3TG is present – assess risks in supply chain
  • Identify EU importers and check they meet the regulatory requirement
  • Report publically on DD

 

How Can Anthesis Help?

Anthesis Consulting Group is an international sustainability consultancy with many years of experience supporting companies who are striving to comply with conflict minerals regulations worldwide. Since 2012, our consultants have helped large multinational corporations with international supply chains to structure due diligence programs, engage with supply chains to document the origin of 3TG in products which includes  batteries and to prepare government submittals to demonstrate compliance with conflict minerals requirements.

Please contact Anthesis to learn more about how we can help your organisation to responsibly source minerals from the supply chain and to comply with conflict minerals regulatory requirements worldwide.

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