This is the fourth blog in a four-part series to mark the release of the Second Edition of the Regional Certification Mechanism (RCM) Manual. We have already discussed the creation of Blue Status in the second blog and provided details of the removal of both ‘progress criteria’ and the Independent Mineral Chain Auditor function in the third blog. Now we will talk about some of the other changes that should make the RCM more effective and provide for easier implementation by Member States and supply chain actors.
What were the general improvements made to the document?
There were a number of usability issues with the original RCM. Without going into too many details, the Manual was hard to interpret, did not flow well, had many redundancies, and inconsistent terminology. The following is a list of additional improvements made to the document:
- One Document (Manual + Appendices) - Original RCM was two separate documents, Manual and Appendices - Reduced from 150+ to 78 pages (English version)
- Added RCM Actors in “Section I – Scope” to provide clarity on roles and responsibilities
- Added additional definitions and removed definitions no longer used or appropriate
- Removed or consolidated four subsections from the requirements section of the previous manual
- Re-ordered the document to make it consistent with mineral process flow
- Created an Appeals Procedure, which only had a place holder before
- Re-oriented the manual such that requirements were covered in the body and process and/or information needs in the Appendices
- Used consistent terminology and removed redundancies
These improvements have made the RCM Manual easier to understand and implement.
What else changed in Mine Site Assessment and Validation?
In addition to creating the Blue Status for mine sites, it was necessary to provide clarification on who had the responsibility and role of assessing and validating mine sites. It was critical to ensure that this was a Member State responsibility, as in the old manual the third-party auditors and the Independent Mineral Chain Auditor (IMCA) also had a mandate to change status. The revised manual does not allow Third-Party Auditors to change a mine site’s Status but ensures that they must report all identified Red and Yellow Status issues to Member States and the ICGLR. Since the IMCA function has been removed, the ability of the IMCA to change the Status is also removed.
How were Chain of Custody requirements affected?
Based on the experience gained in the implementation of the old RCM, there was the impression that a third-party was required to implement the CoC. While not the correct interpretation, the CoC requirements in the RCM needed to be clearer. In addition, there were informal agreements or MOU’s in place between governments and third-party providers. These were not consistent across the providers or governments, potentially adding cost and creating unfair advantages to a competing system. To ensure more consistency in the definition and implementation of CoC requirements, the Second Edition requires Member States to establish a CoC Programme that licenses CoC Systems. Systems may be implemented by a third party, government, or company. There may be more than one system in the Member States programme. In fact, this is strongly encouraged to promote competition amongst providers.
There has also been concerns raised regarding transparency of some of the systems that have been implemented. This included access to data during a Third-Party Audit (TPA) and what the true operational cost are. To address these concerns the RCM now requires greater transparency of CoC Systems including an annual financial report submitted by the CoC System to the Member State and Audit Committee and access to data for auditors during a TPA. If a third-party CoC System provider is used, Exporters are responsible to assure Systems transmit data to the Member State. Failure to make data available during the audit may lead to a non-conformance, which may in turn impact the Exporter’s ability to continue to export legally.
Finally, experience has shown that disputes have existed between third party CoC and Due Diligence providers which leads to the disruption of the competing supply chain and thus negatively impacting the supply chain. It is critical that disputes be raised to the Member State as soon as practical, therefore the RCM now requires CoC Systems to report immediately to Member States of any dispute.
What changed regarding the Third-Party Audits of Exporters?
In alignment with OECD Due Diligence Guidance, TPAs are now Management Systems Audits and consistent with the OECD Alignment Assessment. There were significant concerns around cost and the ICGLR’s capacity to conduct timely audits; therefore, the frequency of exporter audits was changed from annually to once every three years. The TPA process must be initiated by the Exporter, who is required to pay for the audit. To have an agreed understanding around access to data, payment terms, and confidentiality issues, Exporters need to have a signed contract in place with the ICGLR. This will avoid confusion and make sure the terms of the audit process are clear and well defined.
The Second Edition of the RCM has not fundamentally changed the purpose of the mechanism, which remains to contribute to and certify mineral supply chains that do not directly or indirectly provide support to non-state armed groups and / or public or private security forces, or contribute to serious human rights abuses (as outlined in Annex II of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains).
The new manual does however introduce significant changes to the requirements, processes and roles and responsibilities of actors. We believe that these innovations will make the RCM more user-friendly, ensure widespread uptake in the years to come and strengthen enforcement by focussing on its fundamental elements.
As originally planned, this was to be the last blog of the series. If we continue to get favourable responses to the Blog series, we will continue to Blog about the ongoing implementation of the RCM along with additional clarifications/interpretations that may be needed to assure consistent understanding and implementation of the RCM across the region. Please provide your thoughts or ideas for additional topics that you would like to hear about. If you have any questions or ideas for the authors please contact Mike or Adam at the following addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com