Strasbourg: European lawmakers on Wednesday unexpectedly voted to require firms to put tighter controls on conflict minerals from war zones to help bar them from the European supply chain.
The aim is to ensure profits from "blood metals" -- tungsten, tin, tantalum and gold, which are often used in computers and mobile phones -- do not go to warlords in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The European Parliament in Strasbourg had been expected to pass a watered down motion that would have made it largely voluntary for firms in Europe to responsibly source the materials from conflict areas.
But at the last minute they passed amendments for an obligatory system by 378 to 300 with 11 abstentions, after leftist and green euro-MPs said they had lobbied wavering right-wing counterparts.
Applause broke out as the key amendment was passed.
"The responsible sourcing by industry and business of minerals from conflict areas is of great importance," said Irish lawmaker Martina Anderson from the left-wing Sinn Fein party, who backed the measure.
The tougher legislation passed by the European Parliament now has to be discussed with the member states and the European Commission, the executive of the 28-member EU, officials said.
The campaign was backed by dozens of humanitarian groups and star campaigner Denis Mukwege, a surgeon in the Democratic Republic of Congo who last year won Europe`s top rights prize for his work treating victims of mass rape.
It is inspired by the Dodd-Frank Act, a 2010 US financial reform law under which US companies must inform regulators if they use metals from DR Congo or neighbouring countries.
The European Commission had supported a voluntary system for all companies, but the parliament`s trade committee firmed the proposal up last month by requiring mandatory controls from the estimated 20 smelters and refineries in the bloc.
The leftist groups then pushed for it to be mandatory across the board.