The Biden administration signed a deal with countries rife with child labor nearly a week before blocking a major Minnesota mining project as part of its “green” push.
On Thursday, the Biden administration announced it would prohibit mining in more than 200,000 acres of land from being mined for waterway protection, effectively canceling a major Minnesota mining project.
But just one week prior, the administration agreed to a memorandum of understanding with Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, two countries known for mining rare metals cobalt and copper and using child labor to mine these metals.
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The Memorandum of Understanding was signed to strengthen electric vehicle batteries, according to a State department press release. The administration has been pushing for electric vehicles to replace traditional gas ones.
The DRC produces over 70% of the world’s cobalt, and Zambia is the world’s sixth-largest copper producer, according to the department press release. These metals are vital in making electric vehicle batteries as well as other devices like cell phones.
The department’s press release states, “Through this MOU, the United States will support the commitment between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia to develop jointly a supply chain for electric vehicle batteries.”
But the mines producing the metals for these electric vehicle batteries are run largely by child labor, according to the Department of Labor. In Congo, “Thousands of children also work in cobalt and copper mines in the southern Copperbelt region,” the department says.
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“Prevalence of child labor is highest in the country’s artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector, which operates with minimal oversight. Child labor has been detected at one in four ASM sites, with informal or illegal ASM operations leaving children uniquely exposed to hazardous working conditions and, in some instances, to forced labor.”
The department also notes that, while the exact numbers are unknown, between 5,000 and 35,000 children work in artisanal cobalt mines.
In Zambia, “Illegal mining syndicates, called jerabo gangs, in the Copperbelt province employ children for mining activities, including forcing children to load trucks with stolen copper ore. Commercial sexual exploitation of children is common, particularly along Zambia’s borders and transit corridors,” according to the Department of Labor.
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Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior signed Public Land Order 7917, which blocked 225,504 acres of land from being mined in Minnesota. This effectively halted a major nickel-copper mining plan in the state.
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