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23rd Feb 2019

Amnesty takes aim at EU's 'conflict minerals' plan

The EU has agreed on a framework to stop the the trade in so-called conflict minerals, illegally mined materials used to finance armed conflicts particularly in African countries.

The aim of the forthcoming EU rule is for European companies to source materials including tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold responsibly. They are minerals typically used in everyday products such as mobile phones, laptops, cars and jewellery.

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"The EU is committed to preventing international trade in minerals from financing warlords, criminals and human rights abusers," Lilianne Ploumen, Dutch trade and development minister, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said on Thursday (16 June).

The framework, agreed by the bloc's institutions, obliges smelters and refiners to confirm the source of minerals. But the proposal excludes small-volume importers.

Final adoption for the new rules is expected in the coming months.

But the agreement has already come under fire from Amnesty International, which says the proposal would still allow a "deadly trade" to continue by covering only a few hundred companies.

"Despite its rhetoric on responsible business, Europe has prioritised profit over people," the UK-based human rights group said in a statement, although it acknowledged the plan is a first step in the right direction.

The NGO accused the EU of seeking to exempt "the vast majority of EU companies trading in minerals" and putting faith in the companies choosing the source minerals responsibly, without being required by law to do so.

Amnesty's Iverna McGowan said the proposal was flawed because companies that manufacture products incorporating these minerals outside the EU were “entirely off the hook”.

“It’s a half-hearted attempt to tackle the trade in conflict minerals which will only hold companies importing the raw materials to basic checks,” she said.

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