Congo-Kinshasa: Rep Smith Introduces Bill Aimed at Preventing Cobalt Mined by Child Exploitation and Forced Labor In The Congo From Entering U.S. Market

press release

Washington, DC — Communist China exploits African children to power the ‘Green Economy’

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chair of the House Global Human Rights Subcommittee, introduced legislation (HR 7891) this week aimed at ensuring that cobalt—a key natural resource used to power electric vehicles, solar panels and other “green” products—that is extracted or processed with the use of child or forced labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) does not enter the United States market.

China processes 90 percent of the world’s cobalt, most of which comes from China-owned mines in the DRC.

“The Communist Chinese government—which has gained almost full dominance of every single step of the cobalt supply chain—profits from child and forced labor used to extract cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo and power our so-called ‘green economy,’” said Rep. Chris Smith, who also serves as Chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

“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,” said Smith, who also authored the China Trade Relations Act (HR 638), which would require China to stop its horrific human rights violations if it wishes to enjoy normal trade relations with the United States.

Specifically, Smith’s bill—the Stop China’s Exploitation of Congolese Children and Adult Forced Labor through Cobalt Mining Act—would require the US Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force to lead a comprehensive investigation into the use of forced labor in the cobalt mining industry of the DRC and develop a strategy to ensure that cobalt mined by forced labor does not enter the US market.

The bill text was crafted with key input from the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), whose committee has jurisdiction over the legislation and is scheduled to mark it up on Wednesday, fast tracking it for a vote on the House Floor.

“America has long fought to end child and adult forced labor, yet the cobalt vital to the batteries in our technology is unethically mined with the use of forced labor under Chinese control,” said Rep. Jason Smith. “This legislation is a critical step to blocking material tainted by these inhumane labor practices from entering this country. I am thankful to Rep. Chris Smith for introducing this legislation to stop these dangerous practices.”

The legislation is drawn in part from insightful testimony provided at the congressional hearing chaired by Rep. Chris Smith in November that exposed the Chinese Communist Party’s egregious exploitation of Congolese children and forced laborers, who toil in hazardous conditions to extract cobalt from unsafe mines including artisanal mines in the DRC.

The hearing built on one that Rep. Chris Smith chaired last Congress that included testimony from Fr. Rigobert Minani Bihuzo, a Catholic priest from the DRC who has helped lead efforts to expose China’s horrific human rights abuses across the country. Fr. Bihuzo stated: “The number of artisanal and small-scale mining sites from the Ituri region to Lake Tanganyika is estimated to be 1,000 and the number of artisanal miners to be 200,000 people, among them thousands of children and pregnant women.”

Rep. Chris Smith said the artisanal mines “are often no more than narrow shafts dug into the ground, which is why children are recruited—and in many cases forced—to descend into them, using only their hands or rudimentary tools without any protective equipment, to extract cobalt and other minerals.”

“The biggest beneficiaries of this cobalt continue to remain silent and refuse to face this uncomfortable truth: from dirt to battery, from cobalt to cars, the entire system is fueled by violence, cruelty, and corruption,” Rep. Chris Smith said.

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