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Focusing on the fundamentals: Removal of progress criteria and removal of the Independent Mineral Chain Auditor from the RCM Manual

Focusing on the fundamentals: Removal of progress criteria and removal of the Independent Mineral Chain Auditor from the RCM Manual

September 21, 2020, by Adam Rolfe and Mike Loch (Responsible Trade)


This is the third blog in a four-part series to mark the release of the second edition of the Regional Certification Mechanism (RCM) Manual. It provides details of two significant changes in relation to the first edition: namely the removal of both ‘progress criteria’ and the Independent Mineral Chain Auditor function.

In this blog we outline the original intended purpose of progress criteria in the RCM and the Independent Mineral Chain Auditor function, as well as how and why they failed to live up to expectations in terms of generating positive social and environmental impact. For each it is explained why it was necessary to remove them from the mechanism and in the case of progress criteria, how it makes more sense for them to be incorporated into member states’ legal frameworks. Finally, and this is a common theme for many of the revisions discussed in this blog series, we explore why these changes are reflective of normative and legal developments in the responsible mineral sourcing discourse.

Removal of progress criteria from the RCM

The original RCM differentiated between two sets of criteria against which upstream supply chain actor conformance was measured. These were categorized as ‘status criteria’ and ‘progress criteria’.

The revised manual has retained status criteria, which it is argued are fundamental to the purpose of the RCM: to delink the production and trade of designated minerals in the Great Lakes Region from conflict and serious human rights abuses. They are also aligned with the OECD Due Diligence Guidance Annex II risks. Status criteria require that supply chain actors can demonstrate that they do not provide financing or other means of support to non-state armed groups and public or private security forces including international armed forces. They further cover serious human rights abuses, namely:

  1. “any forms of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”;
  2. “any forms of forced or compulsory labour, which means work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of penalty and for which said person has not offered himself voluntarily”;
  3. “the worst forms of child labour”;
  4. “other gross human rights violations and abuses such as widespread sexual violence”; and,
  5. “war crimes or other serious violations of international humanitarian law, crimes against humanity or genocide.”

By contrast, progress criteria went beyond OECD requirements to include provisions on environmental performance and social impact, such as community engagement and the contribution of ASM mines to local development. Many of these elements were already included in the member states’ mining codes, just not enforced in many cases. Whilst these requirements, when fulfilled, are key ingredients for harnessing the development potential of the minerals sector, they were all too often ignored or deemed unachievable in the short term by the RCM actors. Furthermore, their fulfilment did not directly correspond to the purpose of the RCM, which is to delink the production and trade of designated minerals from conflict and serious human rights abuses. As such, the RCM did not incentivise good performance in this regard, nor did it have measures built in to disincentivise poor performance. The net result of their inclusion was therefore limited to no impact, despite significant additional burden and cost on the mechanism in the form of measuring and verifying performance against them. It was further argued by stakeholders that the inclusion of progress criteria created confusion as to the purpose of the manual and / or diluted other more central requirements.

The removal of progress criteria from the RCM served to fulfil a number of the criteria guiding the revision, as detailed in our first blog in this series. These are: reducing implementation costs, providing clarity to the requirements of the standard, ensuring greater alignment with the OECD Due Diligence Guidance, and increasing the efficiency of the mechanism.

Finally, the removal of progress criteria from the RCM does not diminish the importance of social and environmental issues. Nor does it mean that the aspiration to meet them should be abandoned – in fact, many stakeholders that were consulted as part of the revision process reaffirmed their importance to a thriving and equitable mineral sector in the Great Lakes Region (GLR). After much consultation, it was agreed that in the absence of the widespread fulfilment of the minimum status criteria requirements, the progress criteria must be enforced through member states’ legal frameworks as part of a wider commitment to formalisation and improved standards within the minerals sector in the region.

Removal of the Independent Mineral Chain Auditor from the RCM

In the first edition of the manual, the Independent Mineral Chain Auditor was conceived as playing an important role in overseeing the operational effectiveness and integrity of the mechanism. Its main responsibilities were to:

  1. Assess chain of custody systems to ensure they fulfilled RCM requirements.
  2. Conduct independent missions into conflict financing and contraband trade of designated minerals.
  3. Evaluate conflict and conflict financing risks associated with the mineral trade in the GLR.

In practice, lack of clarity relating to the organisational structure and independence of the mechanism, challenges with establishing a sustainable financing mechanism and question marks concerning its added value meant that the function never really got off the ground.

In this context, stakeholders unanimously called for its removal from the mechanism, which made sense when considered alongside the need to reduce overall implementation costs.

Furthermore, clarification of the roles and responsibilities of the RCM actors means that an effective system of checks and balances is imbedded in the revised RCM, thereby doing away with the need for ‘additional oversight’. The table below demonstrates the primary functions of the key RCM actors, whereby ICGLR is the standard setter and overseer of the mechanism, member states are responsible for regulating and enforcing RCM compliance and supply chain actors are responsible for ensuring they are in compliance with requirements.

Role / Responsibility


Member States

Supply Chain Actors

OECD 5 Step Due Diligence


Mine Site Inspection and Certification


3rd Party Auditors for Exporters


Risk Assessments and Spot-Checks


Regulatory Enforcement


Chain of Custody Implementation


Chain of Custody Licensing


Regional Framework/Oversight


Issue ICGLR Certificate


This system already goes beyond the OECD Due Diligence Guidance requirements by affirming the important role of the ICGLR and member states in overseeing and enforcing requirements outlined in the manual. Further checks, as demonstrated in the first years of RCM implementation, have been overly burdensome, bureaucratic and costly, not to mention duplicating the important role that civil society and other international organisations play in monitoring the performance of the mineral sector in the GLR.

The IMCA position was therefore removed from the second edition of the RCM, with the critical functional elements of the IMCA being delegated to the ICGLR Technical Unit.


Practical implementation experience served to demonstrate both the significant cost and limited added value that both progress criteria and the IMCA function brought to the operation of RCM. Based on feedback from stakeholders consulted as part of the revision process they were removed with the effect of

  1. refocussing the mechanism on its core purpose of delinking the production and trade or minerals from conflict and serious human rights abuses in the GLR, and
  2. creating a more sustainable implementation structure with appropriate checks and balances that reinforces rather than renders overly burdensome the implementation of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance in the GLR.


Coming up in the 4th and final blog in this series we discuss the remaining major changes to the second edition of the RCM.

Stay tuned and if you have any questions for the authors please contact Mike or Adam on the following addresses: mikeloch@responsibletradellc.com; adam.rolfe@levinsources.com.

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