New Jersey Republican introduces bill to block child labor from use in domestic EV industry

FIRST ON FOX: New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith has introduced legislation that would ensure minerals key to green energy in the U.S. are not extracted using child labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Smith’s legislation — called the Stop China’s Exploitation of Congolese Children and Adult Forced Labor through Cobalt Mining Act — would specifically block cobalt extracted or processed with the use of child or forced labor from entering the U.S. market. Cobalt is a vital component of electric vehicle (EV) batteries, but is largely sourced from the DRC where human rights investigations have found child labor is rampant.

And Chinese companies often own cobalt mines in the DRC that export raw materials to China to be processed. The vast majority of worldwide cobalt is processed in Chinese facilities, according to the International Energy Agency.

“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 Smith, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Global Human Rights Subcommittee.


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New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith introduced the Stop China’s Exploitation of Congolese Children and Adult Forced Labor through Cobalt Mining Act. (Rep. Chris Smith’s Office)

Smith’s legislation was crafted alongside House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., whose committee has jurisdiction over the bill. The committee will mark the legislation up on Wednesday, setting it up for a potential floor vote in the near future.

The bill was also written, in part, in response to a November congressional hearing chaired by Rep. Chris Smith that put a spotlight on forced labor in the DRC.


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,” Rep. Jason Smith said. “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.”

Overall, in 2023, the DRC produced 74% of the world’s cobalt and is home to more than half of known global reserves of the mineral, according to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) data. The U.S., on the other hand, mined less than 1% of the world’s cobalt supply and contains less than 1% of its reserves.

A picture of artisanal miners working at a cobalt mine in the DRC on Oct. 12, 2022.

A picture of artisanal miners working at a cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Oct. 12, 2022. (JUNIOR KANNAH/AFP via Getty Images)

While it remains unclear exactly how many of the mines are artisanal and employ child laborers, a USGS National Minerals Information Center study published in June determined that up to 11% of cobalt produced in the nation is tied to child labor.

The Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs previously found that more than 40,000 children, including children as young as 6 years old, work in cobalt mines in the DRC.

The Stop China’s Exploitation of Congolese Children and Adult Forced Labor through Cobalt Mining Act comes as the Biden administration continues to push for a rapid economy-wide transition to electric vehicles. In recent weeks, the administration has finalized rules pushing for more than 50% of car sales to be electric by 2030 and a large share of trucks to be zero-emissions in that same timeline.


“Three years ago, I set an ambitious target: that half of all new cars and trucks sold in 2030 would be zero-emission,” President Biden said last month. “I brought together American automakers. I brought together American autoworkers. Together, we’ve made historic progress. Hundreds of new expanded factories across the country. Hundreds of billions in private investment and thousands of good-paying union jobs. And we’ll meet my goal for 2030 and race forward in the years ahead.”

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