EU to Feel Conflict Crunch?

Is Europe about to get its environmental comeuppance?

After perhaps billions of dollars were spent transforming the electronics supply chain to reflect the European Commission’s RoHS and WEEE directives, the EC is now considering adopting a version of the US law governing conflict minerals.

The US law, promulgated last year, mandates businesses using or trading in certain minerals must have impeccable documentation proving they were not mined using forced labor in the DRC.

As contributor Barbara Jones wrote last month, approximately 6,000 companies in the US may be subject to the reporting requirement, and the National Association of Manufacturers estimates that the compliance costs industry-wide could hit $16 billion.

RoHS, of course, brought painful and, some say, unnecessary costs on the electronics industry, even those companies that were either exempt or otherwise not selling to European customers, as suppliers migrated toward lead-free products in order to ensure compliance. Many companies that were not directly covered by RoHS found themselves scrambling for lead components, for example.

Now that the US has taken the lead on conflict minerals, however, Europe might find itself forced to play geopolitical catchup for a change. The EC is accepting public comment through the end of June, and while it hasn’t tipped its hand as to whether rules are in the offing, it says here political pressure will lead Brussels to enact rules for European businesses as well.

I’d call it payback, expect it will end up costing everyone.


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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow