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US mining project blocked days after Biden admin signs rare metals deal with countries known for child labor exploitation

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The Biden administration blocked a major Minnesota mining project on Thursday — just days after the White House signed a rare metals deal with two countries known for exploiting child labor, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported.

As part of the Biden administration’s ongoing effort to ditch gas-powered vehicles, the White House signed a memorandum of understanding two weeks ago with Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to develop a supply chain of electric vehicle batteries.

According to the Department of Labor, both countries are known for using child labor to mine rare metals, including cobalt and copper.

One week later, the Biden administration blocked a mining project in Minnesota by prohibiting mining on approximately 225,504 acres in the Superior National Forest. The mining project planned to extract nickel and copper but was effectively halted after the Department of the Interior signed Public Land Order 7917 on Thursday.

The order was passed to “protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and surrounding watershed, a spectacular network of rivers, lakes and forests in northeastern Minnesota that comprise the most heavily visited wilderness area in the United States.”

The administration touted the deal with Zambia and the DRC as supporting the “crucial components of the urgently needed global energy transition” that will “strengthen electric vehicle battery value chain.”

The White House reported that more than 70% of the world’s cobalt is sourced from the DRC. Zambia is one of the world’s top copper producers and the second-largest cobalt producer in Africa. These rare metals are needed to produce electric vehicle batteries, cell phones, and laptops.

“The plan to develop an electric battery supply chain opens the door for open and transparent investment to build value-added and sustainable industry in Africa and creating a just energy transition for workers and local communities,” the press release stated.

According to the Department of Labor, the exploitation of child labor in the DRC is prevalent.

“Children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are subjected to the worst forms of child labor, including in the forced mining of gold, tin ore (cassiterite), tantalum ore (coltan), and tungsten ore (wolframite), and are used in armed conflict, sometimes as a result of forcible recruitment or abduction by non-state armed groups,” stated the DOL. “Children also mine cobalt ore (heterogenite) in the Copperbelt region.”

The department estimated that 5,000 to 35,000 children work in DRC cobalt mines.

In Zambia, children are also forced to mine for tin, chrome, gold, ore, and gems.

“Children in Zambia are subjected to the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking, and forced labor in agriculture,” said the DOL. “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.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment, the Daily Caller reported.

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