The Biden administration has blocked a major Minnesota mining project just days after signing a memorandum of understanding with countries known for using child labor in their mining practices, it has emerged.
Last week, the administration announced its decision to protect over 200,000 acres of land from mining to preserve waterways. However, this move has raised questions about the administration's stance on child labor after they recently signed a deal with Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, two countries that mine cobalt and copper using child labor.
Public Land Order 7917, signed by the Department of the Interior last week, blocked 225,504 acres of land from being mined in Minnesota, effectively ending a major nickel-copper mining proposal in the state.
According to a State Department press release, the memorandum of understanding was signed to strengthen electric vehicle batteries and support the administration's push for a transition to electric vehicles. The move raises questions about the White House's commitment to human rights in third-world countries.
“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," the release states.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the world's leading producer of cobalt, accounting for over 70% of global production. Zambia, meanwhile, is the sixth largest copper producer in the world. These metals play a crucial role in the production of electric vehicle batteries and other electronic devices such as cell phones.
However, even the Department of Labor acknowledges that these places are hotspots for child labor. “Thousands of children also work in cobalt and copper mines in the southern Copperbelt region,” the department says of Congo, adding that approximately 5,000 and 35,000 children work in artisanal cobalt mines.
“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.”
Meanwhile 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,” the Department notes.
The admissions add further weight to the claim that the push for rolling out electric vehicles is contributing to tyranny and human rights abuses around the world.
"The vast majority of these minerals are located in countries where mining practices are highly-destructive," noted psychosocial researcher John Mac Ghlionn in a recent column for Human Events. "When and where mining occurs, the immediate environment suffers, including the residents living in the vicinity. Women and children are particularly vulnerable."