The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international organisation with the goal to shape policies that foster prosperity, equality, opportunity and well-being for all, working with governments, policy makers and citizens.
The OECD Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas clarifies how companies can identify and better manage risks throughout the entire mineral supply chain, from miners, local exporters and mineral processors to the manufacturing and brand-name companies that use these minerals in their products.
The OECD Guidance, which is applicable to all minerals and is global in scope, aims to help companies respect human rights, observe applicable rules of international humanitarian law in situations of armed conflict, avoid contributing to conflict, and cultivate both transparent mineral supply chains and sustainable corporate engagement in the mineral sector.
The overall objective of the Guidance is therefore twofold:
- To build secure, transparent and verifiable supply chains
- To promote responsible investment and trade in fragile areas
In this context, one of the substantive areas of the OECD’s work in the responsible sourcing of minerals is to ensure that international standards do not further marginalise workers of the informal sector. This implies working on the formalisation of ASM.
The OECD, together with participating stakeholders of the OECD Guidance implementation programme, aims to support all initiatives seeking to improve international market access for legitimate artisanal mining communities, so that they can benefit from ongoing trade in conflict-affected and high-risk areas and to support their development.
ASM can play a crucial role for the local development of rural economies in producing countries. This acknowledgment led to the inclusion of a specific appendix in the OECD Guidance, calling on stakeholders to engage in the legalisation and formalisation of artisanal mining communities. The OECD has also developed a booklet that provides practical guidance and answers frequently asked questions relating to sourcing from artisanal and small-scale mining globally. It can be very challenging for international companies to engage, or even consider engaging with artisanal and small-scale miners, for various reasons. For example, one of the first and most immediate challenges often put forward by companies is the illegality of most of the ASM producers. Under the OECD Guidance, however, this issue does not represent sufficient grounds for not engaging in this potential business relationship. In this instance, the OECD Guidance recommends that companies work with artisanal miners that are not associated with the most severe forms of risks and who are willing to engage in credible legalisation processes; and use their leverage – jointly with local partners – to engage local authorities and convince them to tolerate and support responsible ASM production and export by allowing for formalisation and legalisation.
This is only one of the many challenges of exploring commercial relationship opportunities with informal ASM entities. However, experience has shown that these challenges can be overcome when companies choose to adopt a progressive and constructive stance.
The OECD is encouraged to see the increased interest from the international community (governments, international organisations, industry associations and civil society organisations) to engage in collaborative approaches to promote responsible ASM production of all sorts of mineral resources. Still, there is a need for even greater awareness within the global industry, in particular that responsible production also means sourcing responsibly from conflict areas and supporting artisanal miners in their efforts to meet the new demands of the market.