April 21 (Reuters) - Major tin producers have agreed to begin reporting on compliance with a new code of conduct starting from third-quarter 2017, an industry body said, seeking to boost supply chain credentials ahead of new European rules on responsible sourcing of ore.
Ten producers have signed up to the code, which will cover environmental performance, protection of human rights and responsible metal production among other elements, and will be a prerequisite for membership of the International Tin Research Institute (ITRI), the London-based body said on Friday.
"The tin industry has an unusually high proportion of artisanal mining and this presents particular challenges in assessing and making improvements in the supply chain," ITRI said.
"ITRI and its members are committed to...engage and encourage positive change among the many small operators and artisanal miners whose livelihoods depend on the mineral sector and who make an important contribution to tin supply."
The spotlight has grown in recent years on minerals sourced from conflict areas. The European Union approved draft regulations to prevent trade in minerals from such areas last month, due to come into force from 2021.
The United States is meanwhile reviewing its conflict minerals rules, and has suspended enforcement of the costliest elements of the regulations in the meantime. The change in stance followed the election of President Donald Trump, who has vowed to cut costs for business.
As far back as 2010, the ITRI launched a supply chain initiative covering conflict areas including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.
In the past few years however, Myanmar has become one of the world's top tin suppliers. Much of its ore comes from an area controlled by an insurgent army that the U.S. sanctioned in 2003 for narcotics trafficking.
The companies that have signed up to the ITRI reporting plan are Bluestone Mines Tasmania; Fenix Metals of Poland; Malaysia Smelting Corporation Bhd and its unit Rahman Hydraulic Tin Sdn Bhd; Belgium's Metallo-Chimique; Mineração Taboca S/A of Brazil; Peru's Minsur S.A.; Bolivia's Operaciones Metalúrgicas SA (OMSA); Indonesia's PT Timah; Thailand Smelting & Refining Company Limited and Yunnan Tin Group .
(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)