EC releases vetting procedure for conflict mineral due diligence agencies

The European Commission (EC) has published a secondary regulation that lays down how it will assess and authorize conflict mineral due diligence schemes. The schemes can be used by European Union metal importers to demonstrate they have not sourced product from mines and smelters associated with human rights abuses.

This new regulation (EU) 2019/429 ‘on methodology and criteria for the assessment and recognition of supply chain due diligence schemes concerning tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold’ dovetails with regulation (EU) 2017/821 on supply chain due diligence obligations for these traders.

The goal of the new regulation, now in force, is to ensure EU traders have sufficient numbers of third-party due diligence schemes to comply with ethical trading obligations in force from January 2021.

Under the Commission’s assessment system, certified due diligence bodies must follow principles laid down in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development’s (OECD) Methodology for the Alignment Assessment of Industry Programmes and the OECD Minerals Guidance.

This means that they can identify and address “actual and potential risks linked to conflict-affected and high-risk areas to prevent or mitigate adverse impacts associated with their sourcing activities”, said a Commission note.

Applicants would also have to declare their objectives, identify existing clients, release other assessments of their schemes, and say what mineral and metal production they assess.

Commission officials would have the right to inspect scheme documents, interview its representatives, and observe any third-party audits, when gathering information about an application. Brussels will also consult the OECD on applicants before adding them to its approved list.

If the Commission learns of problems with a certified due diligence scheme, it will give it three to six months to resolve these difficulties. If it fails, the EU executive will remove such a scheme from its approved list. The Commission will publish an updated register of approved due diligence schemes.

In an explanatory memorandum about the new regulation, the Commission said it wanted to “provide transparency and certainty as regards the supply practices of [European] Union importers and of smelters and refiners sourcing from conflict-affected and high-risk areas”.