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10 Jul 2023


DRC: U.S. to ban imported products containing minerals critical to electric vehicle batteries mined through child labour and other abusive conditions

‘US measure would ban products containing mineral mined with child labor in DRC’ 3 July 2023

A measure has been introduced in the U.S. House to ban imported products containing minerals critical to electric vehicle batteries but mined through child labor and other abusive conditions in DR Congo. The bill targets China, which sponsor Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey says uses forced labor and exploits children to mine cobalt in the impoverished but resource-rich central African country. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the world’s largest producer of cobalt, a mineral used to make lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, a key pillar of President Joe Biden’s climate plans.

…China holds a 68% stake in Sicomines, the copper and cobalt joint venture with Congo's state mining firm Gecamines, following a 2008 infrastructure-for-minerals deal, which Congo now is seeking to review over concerns it gets too little benefit from the arrangement. Congo is also Africa’s top producer of copper, and lithium was recently found there — also key components of EV batteries. The extraction of the minerals has been linked to child and exploitative labor, environmental abuses and safety risks. In a 2016 report, Amnesty International blamed Chinese firms for child labor in Congo’s cobalt mining and multinational tech firms for failing to address the negative human rights issue in their supply chains.

…The U.S. legislation would prohibit importing “goods, wares, articles, or merchandise containing metals or minerals, in particular cobalt and lithium and their derivatives, mined, produced, smelted or processed, wholly or in part, by child labor or forced labor in the DRC,” Smith's office said. The legislation also would require the president to identify and impose sanctions, including visa and transaction prohibitions, on foreign actors who facilitate and exploit child labor in Congo.