GOP Rep Introduces Bill To Counter Chinese Use Of ‘Forced Labor’ In Critical Minerals

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Nick Pope Contributor
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Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey introduced legislation Friday which would ban imports containing key minerals extracted by child labor in Congolese mines and counter Chinese control of the global critical minerals supply.

The Countering China’s Exploitation of Strategic Metals and Minerals and Child and Forced Labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo Act would prohibit the importation of all products containing cobalt and lithium extracted by child miners and victims of labor trafficking in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to a press release from Smith’s office. The rare minerals are crucial ingredients for the lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles (EVs), a key pillar of President Joe Biden’s larger green energy agenda.

“The United States must stop aiding and abetting Communist China’s egregious exploitation of children—some as young as 6 years old—and start becoming less dependent on Xi Jinping’s brutal dictatorship,” Smith said in a statement. “The Chinese Communist Party’s quest for cobalt for batteries and lithium for solar panels to power the so-called Green Economy motivates human rapacity.” (RELATED: Biden Admin Cracks Down On Chinese Solar Panels, Undermining The Green Agenda)

EVs require considerable amounts of lithium and cobalt in the manufacturing of their batteries, and China overwhelmingly dominates the global rare earth mineral extraction and refining markets, according to Politico. As of September 22, 2022, the Biden administration has allocated at least $24 billion toward EV infrastructure and manufacturing, according to a White House fact sheet.

Chinese firms dominate mining in the DRC, which provides 70% of the world’s cobalt supply and could soon become the world’s leading lithium producer, according to Quartz.

“On the backs of trafficked workers and child laborers, the Chinese Communist Party is exploiting the vast cobalt resources of the Democratic Republic of Congo to fuel its economy and global agenda,” Smith said, according to a press release.

Despite the Biden administration’s consistent promotion of EVs to mitigate emissions and simultaneously spur a domestic green manufacturing boom, the administration has cut deals with the DRC and other child labor hotbeds to source rare earth minerals after clamping down on domestic mining projects.

Beyond restricting imports containing child-mined lithium and cobalt, the legislation would instruct the president to identify and sanction foreign actors who facilitate and exploit Congolese child labor.

There were about 40,000 children laboring in unsafe Congolese cobalt mines as of 2021, according to the Wilson Center.

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