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Social and ecological aspects

Conflict and Mining

Columbit-Tantalit Ore

In some countries, the extraction of and trade in certain minerals has helped to fund violent conflict. The civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia, for example, were partly financed by illegal diamond mining and trading. In the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, illegal mining and trade in conflict minerals are an important source of income for armed rebel groups. Curbing the illegal production of and trade in natural resources in places where they help to finance conflict is an important sphere of activity for the international community.

Since 2003, 73 countries have committed themselves through the Kimberley Process to a certification of origin scheme for diamonds from Sierra Leone and Liberia in order to stem the flow of illegal stones onto the market. In 2010, the mining of and trade in niobium-tantalum ore from the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was classified by the United Nations as promoting conflict. Against this background, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) a multinational organization in Central Africa, developed a certification mechanism for coltan, cassiterite (tin ore) and wolframite (tungsten) in order to enable mining companies to continue extracting these minerals in the region. Certified resources from the region are classed as conflict-free and are traded on the international commodities market.

International regulations such as the Dodd-Frank Act in the USA (2010) and the EU Conflict Minerals Regulation (2017) require certificates of origin to be submitted for tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, which are known as ‘3TG’. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, US listed companies and their suppliers are obliged to submit a certificate of origin for 3TG if these minerals are to be used in their production process. Companies then must prove that these resources do not originate from conflict regions in and around the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The EU Regulation requires importers of 3TG from conflict or high-risk regions to fulfil due diligence obligations in the supply chain. Certificates of origin and resource certification schemes are helping to regulate the trade in minerals from conflict regions and can therefore contribute to conflict reduction. 

The Extractives and Development sector programme promotes the development and dissemination of certificates of origin and certification mechanisms in the extractive sector and thus contributes to stemming the trade in conflict minerals. The programme supports efforts to harmonise the various existing sustainability and transparency initiatives standards and requirements in this field on a collaborative basis. To this end, the University of Queensland has conducted the study Leveraging greater impact of mining sustainability initiatives: An assessment of interoperability with support from the sector programme. A subsequent study is looking into the potential of harmonising the evaluation processes of initiatives in order to strengthen their development impact in the long term.

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