Stauber Talks About U.S. Connection To Congo Child Labor For Mining After Order To Protect BWCAW

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republican Representative Pete Stauber (MN-08) said on Thursday that the Biden administration’s decision to section off 350-square miles of the Superior National Forest from mining projects for 20 years means that the U.S. could rely on child labor overseas.

The decision was made due to environmental concerns of potential mining near the Rainy River Watershed close to Ely, which leads into the Boundary Waters.

Rep. Stauber has been a longtime proponent of mining on the Iron Range.

He argues that instead of of an opportunity for union jobs in Minnesota’s mines, the United States is making deals for the mining of minerals and precious metals overseas.

He said that includes the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa, where child labor runs rampant.

According to UNICEF, there could be up to 40,000 children working in the mines in the Congo who work 12-hour days, miss school, and are exposed to toxic dust.

“It was a month ago that this administration entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Congo,” Stauber said. “Fifteen of the 19 biggest mines in the Congo are owned by the Chinese government. Those mines employ child slave labor. It’s unconscionable that this administration turns a blind eye to child slave labor, but yet wants to take their minerals.”

Back in December, the Biden administration said the agreement with the Congo would help future production of electric vehicles batteries, which require the precious metal cobalt to run.

The Biden administration is aware of the child slave labor issues in the Congo, acknowledging it in a report in October.

However, the mines using child labor in central African country have little to no oversight.

The decision to put a 20-year moratorium on mining in a large section of the Superior National Forest means that proposed projects like the Twin Metals copper-nickel mine are now unlikely to move forward.

Senator Tina Smith (MN-DFL) sent a statement agreeing with the Biden administration’s decision, saying that mining near areas with water that connects to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness puts the environment at risk.

“In 2016, the federal government began a process to determine whether the watershed that drains into the BWCA is appropriate for copper sulfide mining,” Senator Smith wrote. “The answer, according to the science, is no…Minnesota has a rich mining tradition, and we will continue to provide valuable minerals to the world, thanks to hard-working Minnesotans. We are a mining state, but mining is not appropriate everywhere.”

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