Minerals such as tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold and cobalt are known to fuel conflicts and human rights abuses. Mining methods are often severely unsafe for workers. Clare Hobby, Global Director for Purchaser Engagement explains why multi-stakeholder engagement in local development programs is vital for improving life in vulnerable mining communities.

This text is an excerpt from the report Impacts and Insights 2019.

Clare Hobby, TCO Development

Forced labor, child labor, violence and corruption are continuing challenges for many mining communities, where militias and other armed groups control the oversight and output of largely artisanal mining operations. Working conditions are often unsafe, unregulated and lead to environmental degradation, while proceeds from mining operations are used to fund further conflict.

Conflict minerals are often traded illegally, and ruling militias frequently undermine peace efforts in order to maintain their dominance. The absence of a strong civil society and democratic, stable government leaves a void where these illegal organizations continue to operate, threatening both the environment and local populations.

Legislation and other regulations to address conflict minerals vary around the world. Beginning in 2010, U.S. publicly-listed companies and their supply chains have been required to disclose their source of conflict minerals in accordance with the Dodd-Frank Act section 1502, whilst companies traded in the rest of the world have no such requirement. EU regulation only impacts direct importers of ores and metals into the EU, leaving out the minerals found in manufactured products.

A global approach to responsible mineral sourcing

Clearly this lack of consistent regulation is problematic and indicates a need for a global, systematic approach to responsible mineral sourcing. TCO Certified drives more responsible mineral sourcing in all countries where the mining industry and trade are present. Suppliers must adopt a responsible approach to mineral sourcing, irrespective of where in the world they operate.

2015 marked the first set of conflict minerals criteria in TCO Certified. Brand owners had the option of either joining a multi-stakeholder group that operate or support in-region programs that work to support legitimate mining and local communities, or independently verify that their conflict mineral due diligence program is considered in line with the OECD due diligence guidelines.