Under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the EU Conflict Mineral Regulation continues to apply in Northern Ireland for the duration of the Protocol. The EU regulations are implemented in Northern Ireland via the Conflict Minerals (Compliance) (Northern Ireland) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 which came into force on 1 January 2021.
The EU Conflict Minerals Regulation puts voluntary guidance from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on mineral supply chain due diligence into law for the largest importers of tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold (3TG), across the EU. Businesses have a statutory requirement to comply with the OECD guidance only in Northern Ireland. However, the Government expects all companies importing 3TG into Great Britain to also comply with the OECD guidance.
Purpose of the new regulations
The new domestic Regulations apply to companies in Northern Ireland that import significant volumes of tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold or so called, ‘conflict minerals’. Businesses importing over specific volume thresholds (as set by the applicable EU regulation) of 3TG must carry out due diligence, to ensure their imports have been mined and processed responsibly. These businesses must demonstrate that they are managing any risk that their supply chains are linked to human rights violations or to the fuelling of conflict.
The Regulation does not require checks on goods moving between borders. Instead it requires checks on the management and risk assessment processes of importers.
Enforcing the regulations
The Regulations include an enforcement framework. This gives the Secretary of State for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) powers to require the production of information, to enter premises, and to inspect documents, data and records. These powers enable checks to ensure that businesses within the scope of the regulations comply with their due diligence obligations.
If an importing business fails to comply and cooperate with checks in response to a notice served under these powers, the Secretary of State may issue civil compliance notices, and, if necessary, financial penalties.
Where the regulations apply
The Regulations only apply to Northern Ireland. However the Government expects all businesses to undertake due diligence of their supply chains, as set out in the OECD guidelines. This due diligence helps to ensure that imports have been mined and processed responsibly, and prevents human rights violations and the fuelling of conflict.
Further guidance and information
The FCDO will publish guidance for businesses in scope of the Regulations as soon as possible in 2021. For queries about these Regulations, contact the Conflict Minerals National Competent Authority at the FCDO: CMNCA@fcdo.gov.uk