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Last update : 05/04/2017

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SC Meeting in Geneva

Geneva (5 April 2017): The 80th SC meeting took place in Geneva (Switzerland) on 30 March 2017 under the chairmanship of Ms. Dalia Yarom (Israel).  The meeting was attended by 39 officials representing 17 out of 19 Contracting States (Austria and the Netherlands were not represented) and 3 out of 5 Applicant States (Serbia and Ukraine did not attend).

The meeting focused on mainly technical issues, in particular the revision of the Convention's Technical Annexes and the related Compilation of Technical Decisions. The following issues were discussed by the SC: 

- Intermediate base metal layers 
The SC reviewed the outcome of a Convention-internal survey on intermediate base metal layers in precious metal articles.  The survey showed substantial differences in the acceptance of such layers by the 19 Contracting States.  The SC followed the recommendation made by the Standing Technical Group (STG) and decided not to allow such layers in principle under the Convention.  Practical exceptions based on technical reasons may, however, be considered in the future.

- Delegation of testing
The SC endorsed in principle a proposal by the STG to allow Convention's Assay Offices to delegate their testing competence to other Convention's Assay Offices, subject to a number of conditions.  This delegation is particularly sensible for the testing of palladium or platinum articles, for which there is not much demand.  The Norwegian Assay Office was invited to table an alternative wording regarding the number of articles to be considered in order to determine whether an Assay Office can delegate its competence.

- Accreditation
The SC reviewed the outcome of a Convention-internal survey on the cost of accreditation as well as a proposal by the STG to make accreditation to ISO 17025 a compulsory requirement under the Convention.  However, this was not unanimously supported.  As a result, the STG was invited to re-discuss the issue and come up with alternative proposals.

- XRF testing
The SC endorsed in principle an amendment to the conditions related to the acceptance of XRF as a testing method (not to be mixed up with XRF screening), taking into consideration the measurement of uncertainty.  The STG was invited to complete the drafting of Guidelines on XRF testing, which will specify the conditions under which XRF testing can be used under the Convention.

- New CCM
The SC agreed that in order to be used as a 0.5mm mark, the new standardised Common Control Mark (CCM), to be introduced in parallel to the exiting CCM marks, needed to remain simple.  The Secretariat was asked to present possible options in time for the next meeting.

The SC reviewed the accession of Croatia, Italy, Serbia, Sri Lanka and the Ukraine.

- Both Croatia and Serbia (not attending) are in the process of ratifying the Convention. 

- Regarding the accession of Italy, the SC was informed that the Czech Republic and Italy had agreed in principle on a visit by a Czech Delegation to the Italian laboratory of Vicenza.  The SC invited both parties to agree on a date in order for the visit to take place in the next 2 months, thus allowing the Czech Republic to possibly reconsider its objection to Italy's accession in time for the next SC meeting.

- There are some signs that Ukraine (not attending) will resume its accession process to the Convention.  

- Regarding Sri Lanka, the SC requested the STG to propose a technical expert to carry out a follow-up inspection to Sri Lanka.  

The Depositary (not attending) informed Contracting States on changes regarding the Assay Office marks of Ireland and the authorised Assay Office of WaarborgHolland in the Netherlands.  

The Working Group on Vision and Strategy (WGVS) briefed Members on the 3rd meeting (held in Larnaca, Cyprus, on 27 September 2016) and its discussions on the SWOT analysis (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats).  A 4th meeting took place on 31 March 2017 in Geneva.

The Standing Technical Group (STG) reported on its 20th meeting held in Geneva on 16 January 2017.  A new STG Deputy Chairman was elected in the person of Mr Peters Brangulis (Assay Office of Latvia).  The STG reviewed proposals regarding the amendment of the Convention's Annexes and related Technical Decisions.  It discussed a number of investigations and corrective action taken by Assay Offices, which exceeded permissible limits during the last interlaboratory proficiency testing scheme on precious metals (Round Robin - RR).  These investigations were tabled to the SC for information.  The STG also reviewed comments made by the SC on the revision of the RR Guidelines and integrated those deemed compatible with the aim of the revision.  At the SC meeting, the Polish Assay Offices requested that an exemption be made for Assay Offices, which do not use XRF. The revision of the Guidelines was thus sent back to the STG.  The STG also reviewed draft guidelines on CCM software, which were shared with the SC for comments.

The SC discussed two cases regarding "Assaying and Marking Practice" (AMP).  It noted that statistics on articles marked with the Common Control Mark (CCM) in 2016 had increased by 3.8%.

The next SC meeting will take place in Porto (Portugal) on 23 October 2017.


Dates of Next Meetings

Geneva (5 April 2017): The next meetings of the Standing Committee (SC) and the International Association of Assay Offices (IAAO) will take place as follows:

- 23-24 October 2017: SC & IAAO meetings in Porto (Portugal) 

- 20 April 2018: SC meeting in Stockholm (Sweden) 

- 5-6 September 2018: SC & IAAO meetings in Riga (Latvia) 

- Spring 2019: SC meeting (Slovenia) 

The attendance of all above-mentioned meetings is restricted to Members, Observers and Guests.


Cyprus Delegation with SC Chairperson, from left to right: Ch. Kiayias (Cyprus Assay Office), T. S. Lambrianou (Cyprus Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry & Tourism), D. Yarom (SC Chairperson, Israel) &  E. Ioannou (Cyprus Assay Office)

SC Meeting in Larnaca

Geneva (21 October 2016): The 79th SC meeting took place in Larnaca (Cyprus) on 26 September 2016 and was attended by 49 officials representing 24 countries of which all 19 Contracting States, 2 Applicant States (Croatia, and Serbia) and guests from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Moldova.

The meeting was chaired by Ms. Dalia Yarom (Israel). In her welcome address, the Chairperson thanked Cyprus for their warm welcome and the organisation of several events. The Chairperson also emphasised the importance of basing all decisions on the Convention's rules and showing goodwill during discussions.

Members reviewed the accession of Croatia, Italy, Serbia, Sri Lanka and the Ukraine.  Croatia and Serbia provided updates on the status of accession. In Croatia, new elections took place on 11 September which may further delay the ratification process. In Serbia, a new government has been recently formed and the ratification process requires parliamentary approval.

Regarding the Czech objection to Italy's accession, the Chairperson has written to the Czech Government to reconsider its position and remove its objection to the accession of Italy. However, the Czech Government has maintained its objection. During the meeting, the Czech Republic provided information on its exchanges with Italy including its intention to conduct a visit to the Italian laboratory in Vicenza. The SC agreed to wait for the outcome of the visit.

Switzerland has been in contact with Ukraine on behalf of the Convention and has received information from the Ukrainian Ministry of Finance that Ukraine is preparing a draft law to recognise international marks. It would be only after the draft law is accepted that Ukraine could take part in SC meetings. Switzerland agreed to continue to exchange with Ukraine and communicate progress to the SC.

Sri Lanka informed the SC that it was ready to be re-inspected. Sri Lanka's results from the previous Round Robins (RR) have been improving, particularly for gold.  The Chairperson called on volunteers to conduct the re-inspection noting that a high level of technical expertise would be needed.

On the recommendation of the Standing Technical Group (STG), the SC discussed the revision of the Convention's Annexes and related Compilation of Technical Decisions. Four issues were discussed in depth by the SC: (1) the number of minimum marks and the shape of the Common Control Mark (CCM); (2) XRF testing; (3) intermediate base metal layers in silver articles; and (4) equivalence to accreditation.

The SC accepted introducing a dual system for the CCM, which would include the existing system in parallel with a new system. The existing system would be modified to make the fineness mark optional (this mark is already comprised in the CCM). The new system would consist of a single and unique "conformity" mark thus reducing the number of punches necessary to apply the CCM. This could be particularly useful for smaller Assay Offices as well as for laser marking. Members noted the importance of having some indication of the metal under the new system. The design option for such a mark will be further discussed by the STG.

On XRF, the SC asked the STG to draft a SOP for XRF testing and review the conditions under which XRF testing can be used under the Convention.

For intermediate base metal layers in silver articles, the STG will circulate a questionnaire to better understand the demand and concerns amongst stakeholders.

The SC also agreed on a consultation on accreditation via a questionnaire so that variations in costs and other barriers to accreditation can be better understood before any decisions are made regarding possible alternatives to accreditation.

The SC discussed the compliance of authorised Assay Offices to the Convention's requirements.  It expressed satisfaction with the steps taken to ensure the independence of the Irish Assay Office and welcomed the steps taken by the Norwegian Assay Office to stop subcontracting chemical testing now that it can test silver articles.

The SC reviewed the draft results of this year's Round Robin, the inter-laboratory proficiency testing scheme, which was on gold and silver.

Ms. Valentina Valestany (Sweden) provided an update from the 2nd meeting of the Working Group on Vision and Strategy. The Group's activities are continuing and the results will be presented at the next SC meeting.

Statistics on articles marked with the Common Control Mark (CCM) in the first quarter of 2016 show a 26% increase. The Chairperson welcomed this change in trend compared to previous statistics which had shown a decline. 

The Secretariat reported on the financial situation of the Convention.  Members noted that the membership fees for 2017 would remain the same as in 2016.

The Netherlands reported on the new legal entity for its Assay Office in Gouda, called WaarborgHolland B.V., which uses the same marks and is accredited to 17025 and 17020. The Netherlands will inform the Depositary of these changes.

The UK reported on the merger the National Measurement and Regulation Office (NMRO) and the Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO) into a single Directorate under the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The Chairperson bid farewell to Mr Peter Edwards (NMRO) who attended the SC Meeting for the last time.

The SC agreed to reconvene in Geneva (Switzerland) on 30 March 2017.