Frequently Asked Questions (Smelters)

The Dodd-Frank Act was a regulation passed by the Obama administration following the economic housing collapse that took place in the United States. The act was set to increase liability among companies and to prevent another collapse due to unethical business practices. This includes regulations on financial reporting as well as ethical business standards. Although this act only covers publicly traded companies, everyone who does business with a public company is affected, as these standards spiral down the chain of production.

What is a smelter or refiner (SOR)?
A smelter/refiner is a facility that uses heat and/or chemical agents to produce a base metal from its ore. This is the critical processing step where mined materials are reduced to a concentrated volume of a particular mineral.

How many 3TG smelting facilities exist worldwide?
Best estimates suggest that roughly 400 smelting facilities of 3TG minerals exist.

Why are smelters important?
Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act requires companies filing a Conflict Minerals Report to
exercise due diligence on the source and chain of custody of their conflict minerals. Identifying
and understanding the smelter of 3TGs is important to fulfilling this requirement.

Smelting is the conversion point of identifiable materials into a common product. After smelting, it is impossible to determine the source of the input materials. This makes the smelter the pinch point in the supply chain, putting them in the best position to know the origin of the material and the destination of the product. In addition, there are relatively few smelters compared to many upstream suppliers and downstream users.

What are the goals of the Assent Smelter Program?
The primary goal of Assent’s Smelter Program is to be the most comprehensive and effectual
source of validated smelter information in the world.

In order to accomplish this goal, there are several key aspects involved in the smelter program:

  • Use all available avenues to build and maintain accurate profiles for valid smelters.
  • Perform in-depth and innovative information gathering and analysis.
  • Conduct native language outreach to actual and potential smelting locations around the
    globe to enhance Assent’s data-gathering network, validate existing data, as well as educate
    on the benefits of conflict free sourcing certifications.
  • Obtain country of origin and mine information.
  • Provide clients with reports that will allow them to view and better understand their supply
    chain, and the risk of sourcing materials from any particular smelter.
  • Provide clean CMRTs and Smelter Reports that can be confidently submitted to customers or
    as part of a Conflict Minerals Report.

What are challenges facing the Smelter Program?
The main challenges facing the Smelter Program are the result of a severe deficiency of smelter information, in addition, problems with infrastructure and enforcement of regulations are rampant in the covered countries.

A general lack of public awareness and available information on smelters is a large hindrance in data gathering and validation. Invalid data is recorded and perpetuated, rather than scrubbed, as it is passed up and down the supply chain. This leads to complexities in the volume and accuracy of supplier submitted data.

The focus of conflict mineral regulations is on a developing area of the world with obvious deficiencies in governance and infrastructure that would facilitate an easy implementation process. Issues with smuggling, corruption and a lack of record keeping are constant challenges facing the advocates of conflict free sourcing. In addition, artisanal and guerilla mining and smelting, dealing with small amounts of minerals, exist off the grid and are difficult to track and analyze.

The Assent Smelter Program and their partners are constantly looking for new and innovative solutions to these challenges that will lead the industry into a more efficient and successful phase of conflict free sourcing.

What is Assent’s process for Smelter verification?
When a candidate smelter entry is received from an industry organization or by supplier submission on a CMRT, the first step is to cross-reference the incoming data against existing profiles in the Assent Database for a match based on indicators such as unique smelter ID (CID#), metal, facility location and name. If a match is found in the database, the duplicate information is merged into one accurate profile.

If no matching profile exists, one is created and populated with information gathered by the Smelter Team. The profile is then analyzed and assigned a status of Valid, Invalid or Undetermined.

  • Valid: it has been verified as a smelter/refiner by a third-party such as the CFSI, or
    independently by Assent.
  • Invalid: it has been confirmed that it is not a 3TG smelter/refiner.
  • Undetermined: it is a new entry that does not fall within Valid or Invalid. These profiles
    require further investigation via our research and outreach program. The conclusion of
    this process is the candidate smelter being labeled Valid or Invalid.

 

What is the RMI?
The RMI is an initiative of the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI). Through their Responsible Minerals Assurance Process (RMAP), the RMI operates a third-party audit process that determines which smelters and refiners can be validated as conflict free.

The RMI also created the Conflict Minerals Reporting Template (CMRT), which is the industry standard form for disclosure of smelters within corporate supply chains. Accompanying the CMRT is a Standard Smelter List that provides details on the roughly 300 facilities that the RMAP has verified as smelters.

On this list, each smelter is labelled depending on their status within the third-party audit process:

  • Compliant means that the smelter has completed the annual audit process and has been verified to have conflict free sources.
  • Active means that they are in the process of being audited, or have committed to begin the audit process.
  • The remaining smelters meet the CFSI definition of a smelter but are neither compliant nor active in the audit process.

The RMI is currently the most utilized and respected resource on conflict mineral issues.

What are some other organisations and resources that Assent uses and partners with?

  • London Bullion Market Association (LBMA)
  • US Department of Commerce (DoC)
  • Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC)
  • ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative (iTSCi)
  • Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC)
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
  • US Geological Survey (USGS)
  • Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG)

What determines smelter risk?
Assent calculates smelter risk using an algorithm that weighs factors such as third party conflict-free certification (i.e. RMI compliant or not), industry group recognition (i.e. LBMA good delivery status), proximity to the DRC, and geo-political factors.

For example, a tin smelter that is located in the USA that is RMI compliant will have a very low smelter risk, while a gold refiner located in Sudan that is not enrolled in the RMAP will have a very high risk.

Why should you work towards a conflict-free supply chain?
The ultimate goal for all companies should be to achieve a conflict-free supply chain and product. In order to accomplish this goal, companies should only use those smelters that have been certified to source materials that are conflict free (i.e. Low Risk smelters).

Some large corporations such as Apple, Microsoft, Intel and HP have already made the commitment to achieve this goal in the coming years. As these industry giants make this transition, it will essentially become a necessity that other companies follow this trend. Your customers may begin to demand that suppliers remove non-certified smelters (high risk smelters) from their supply chain.

How can you mitigate smelter risk?
Knowledge:

Your CMRT & Supply Chain:

  • The goal is to use only smelters that are certified compliant by the RMI (low risk).
  • Do not perpetuate bad data by copying from your suppliers’ smelter lists without reviewing the data.
  • Trace back to high risk smelters and determine which of your suppliers source from them.
  • If a smelter is a direct supplier to you, encourage them to seek conflict-free certification if they have not already.

Your Suppliers:

  • Encourage suppliers to look at their CMRTs and become knowledgeable about conflict minerals and smelters.
  • Demand accurate reporting from your suppliers. Do not accept bad or inaccurate data.
  • Encourage or demand that your suppliers transition to the use of only RMI compliant smelters.
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