Matthias Machnig; Source: BMWi/Susanne Eriksson

© BMWi/Susanne Eriksson

Matthias Machnig, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, is opening the two-day International Raw Materials Conference in the ministry today. The main issues are "sustainable raw materials policy" and "transparency in the supply chain".

State Secretary Machnig said: "Germany is one of the world's leading importers of industrial raw materials, and therefore bears a special responsibility for people and the environment in the countries with extractive industries. In order to safeguard our prosperity and competitiveness, we need imports of raw materials, chiefly for metals, energy and specific industrial minerals. Last year, we imported raw materials worth a total of approximately €130bn. Our aim continues to be the pursuit of a sustainable raw materials policy. In the social market economy, that means reconciling commercial success, social cohesion, environmental protection and international responsibility in a long-lasting, viable balance."

International guidelines - such as those of the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development and those of the OECD - form the basis for the duty of care to be exercised by companies worldwide. In this way, the extraction of raw materials should serve sustainable development, and should not trigger any human rights violations or conflicts. The OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas have been drawn up in cooperation with a wide variety of stakeholders as part of a far-reaching initiative. For the first time, the OECD Guidelines are available in German. Small and medium-sized enterprises will find a German translation particularly useful.

The focus of the second conference day will be on the subject of responsible mining and responsibility along the supply chain. Representatives from Australia, Chile, the United States, Canada, Africa, Europe and international organisations will discuss the current challenges involved in extracting raw materials. Some 300 guests from government, commerce, science and civil society in Germany and around the world will be participating in the event.

On 12 November, the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources will be holding a side event to present the findings of the study on "Assessing and Enhancing the Contribution of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises to Due Diligence for Responsible Mineral Supply Chains". The study shows that SMEs in particular play a key role in implementing due diligence in the handling of "conflict minerals" (tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold). This is because they provide the bulk of jobs and need help with establishing responsible supply chains for mineral raw materials so that they can implement the various management and reporting requirements.