15 September 2008 | Paul Snell
Mineral trader Afrimex has been reproached by the UK government for failing to apply sufficient due diligence to its minerals supply chain in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It follows a government investigation prompted by complaints from campaign group Global Witness. It alleged the UK firm was in breach of a number of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) guidelines - a voluntary code of conduct for multinational firms - when sourcing from the country.
The National Contact Point (NCP), responsible for implementing and promoting the guidelines, upheld the complaints and concluded Afrimex "applied insufficient due diligence on the supply chain". It added the firm had failed to take steps to find out how minerals could be sourced "from mines that do not use child or forced labour or with better health and safety".
Patrick Alley, director of Global Witness, said: "The government has sent the right message to companies that they cannot continue to trade in conflict areas as if it were business as usual."
The NCP panel found Afrimex's reliance on oral and written guarantees from suppliers were insufficient for a company sourcing minerals from a conflict zone and that the assurances had not been followed up by checks. It recommended Afrimex draws up a CSR policy and considers steps to monitor and review its progress. However, the OECD guidelines are voluntary.
Afrimex did not respond to SM's request for a comment, but told the NCP it did not believe it had "acted contrary to the expectations of the guidelines".