Making value chains for minerals sustainable: the role of the European Union

Monday 17 December 2018

The European Commission reiterated its commitment to enhance sustainability across value chains for minerals during a lunch-debate organised by AliénorEU on the 28th of November in the European Parliament.  

The event, titled “The role of the European jewellery sector in strengthening sustainable value chains for minerals”, enabled fruitful exchanges among the numerous and high-level participants on two key issues: the implementation of the “conflict minerals regulation” and the ongoing reform of the Kimberley Process.

MEP Patricia Lalonde (France, ALDE) welcomed the positive dynamic going on between governments, businesses and civil society organizations, cooperating together to make the EU trade policy fairer and more accountable. She was echoed by MEP Iuliu Winkler (Romania, EPP), European Parliament rapporteur on Regulation (EU) 2017/821[1] laying down supply chain due diligence obligations for Union importers of tin, tantalum and tungsten, their ores, and gold originating from conflict-affected and high-risk areas, who reiterated the importance of a joint involvement of the private and public sectors to ensure a good implementation of the new due diligence rules. 

The representatives of the jewellery sector stressed the need to put in place the right conditions to have a simple, ambitious and coherent implementation of the Regulation and are fully committed to cooperate with the European institutions during the implementation phase. They also welcomed the decision of the European Commission to establish equivalence criteria to help companies which already comply with other recognised due diligence systems to get a certificate of equivalence in a straightforward way in order to prove that they are in line with the new provisions.

“The European Federation of Jewellery is committed to remain at the forefront of the discussion on ethic and fair value chains for minerals”

Bernadette Pinet Cuoq,

 President of the European Federation of Jewellery

 

The representatives of the European Commission, Mr. Handley (DG Grow) and Mr. Westrup (DG Trade), outlined the measures taken to ensure an effective implementation of the Regulation and reiterated its commitment to provide support tools to assist EU companies in adapting to the new regime. In particular, the European Commission informed the meeting’s participants about the launch of a project to establish an online SMEs Due Diligence Support System. This capacity-building platform will help SMEs to apply the 'OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas'[2]. The system will be available in different languages and open to all companies willing to develop and implement due diligence of mineral supply chains, irrespectively of whether they have obligations under the Regulation.

Regarding sustainable value chains for diamonds, it was recalled that fifteen years after its creation, the Kimberley Process has proved to be an important tool in the fight against the so called ‘conflict diamonds’. Ambassador Philippe Beke, Senior Policy Advisor on the Kimberley Process at the European Commission, evoked the punctual progress made during the latest Plenary of the Kimberley Process, hosted by the European Commission in Brussels at the end of the EU chairmanship’s year. Specifically, Ambassador Beke mentioned the decisions taken to improve the label on the provenance of rough diamonds by declaring the “Country of Mining Origin” instead of “Country of Origin” to better identify the country where the diamonds have been mined or extracted. Furthermore, consensus was reached on the need to enhance effectiveness and to pursue the work to strengthen the Kimberley Process scope. In this respect, the debate is ongoing on the need to widen the scope of the Kimberley Process which, at the moment, is strictly limited to ‘conflict diamonds’ and thus only covers the use of diamonds by rebel groups to finance their actions. Many interested parties believe that it would be commendable if systemic violence and human rights abuses could also be included in the scope. Ms Karla Basselier, Head of Public Affairs at the Antwerp World Diamond Centre, recalled that the jewellery and the diamond sector strongly advocate for the strengthening of the Kimberley Process and for its expansion beyond its current mandate.

The interesting and lively debate that closed the event proved that, as expressed by Bernadette Pinet Cuoq, President of the European Federation of Jewellery, on the occasion of the first event organised by the Federation in 2016, the sector is playing a role of increasing importance on the European scene and is contributing to the formulation of fair and balanced policies which take into account the reality of the sector.  



[1] Regulation (EU) 2017/821 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2017 laying down supply chain due diligence obligations for Union importers of tin, tantalum and tungsten, their ores, and gold originating from conflict-affected and high-risk areas

https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32017R0821 

[2] OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas

http://www.oecd.org/daf/inv/mne/OECD-Due-Diligence-Guidance-Minerals-Edition3.pdf

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