Ending the trade in blood minerals
23 March 2018
Last week the issue of conflict minerals back on the agenda of the European Parliament when we met in Strasbourg. Trade in some metals and minerals - that we use every day in our cars, mobile phones and laptops - has often put money into the pockets of warlords, financing conflicts in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), whilst the minerals themselves are sometimes mined using slave labour.
The EU agreed last year to a law - following a campaign from MEPs - which meant companies would have to show and prove the minerals they were trading weren’t linked to exploitation or conflict. Last week we asked the European Commission how the new law was working in practice so that mining companies track and trace where their minerals come from, using a system called supply chain due diligence.
Due diligence sounds like a boring, technical issue, but it is vital to protect human rights, stop violence against women and protect vulnerable people in some of the poorest and most fragile countries on the planet. This was brought home to me a couple of years ago when I visited the Panzi hospital in the DRC where Dr Denis Mukwege, an extraordinary man and human rights defender, treats women and girls who have been victims of sexual violence by the armed gangs who run the illegal mines in that country, a country estimated to have $24 trillion in mineral wealth, but where that wealth never reaches ordinary people.
We need to stop this exploitation and that’s why it was good to learn in our debate that almost 50% of companies are now reporting on where they get their minerals, up from zero in 2013. But we need to keep the pressure on so that 100% of companies are able to trace their minerals from source to market. None of us wants to buy “blood minerals”. Laws like the one we debated are a step on the way to real trade justice. You can watch the debate here.
Picture: Linda McAvan MEP with Dr Denis Mukwege at the Panzi hospital in DRC 2015