Congressional Democrats Ditch Rep. Stauber’s Anti-Child-Labor Measure for Green Energy Minerals
Green New Deal faithful have a quite a conundrum; they want to completely stop using fossil fuels by switching to wind turbines, solar panels, and lithium ion batteries, but they also hate the mining that is necessary to produce wind turbines, solar panels, and lithium ion batteries. These technologies require large amounts of copper, nickel, cobalt, and other precious metals that are often mined in areas of the world with few protections for workers or the environment.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Minnesota’s Duluth Complex is home to some of the largest undeveloped copper and nickel deposits in the world, and Minnesota is also home to 74 percent of the nation’s cobalt supplies. Mining in Minnesota would mean these resources are developed more responsibly than they would be in other parts of the world, and provide a massive boost to Minnesota’s economy, potentially supporting up to a total of 14,850 jobs and adding almost $6 billion to the state’s GDP.
It’s not surprising, then, that Minnesota Representative Pete Stauber (R), would be the member of Congress who introduced an amendment to House Democrat’s Green New Deal-styled legislation that would required the Commerce Secretary to certify that federally funded electric buses and charging stations do not use minerals mined or processed with child labor, according to the Wall Street Journal.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Democrats quietly deleted before it came up for a floor vote. The amendment, which the Transportation Committee approved last week 43-19, and all 19 opposed were Democrats.
This move deserves our scrutiny, because as we have written about before, most of the world’s cobalt comes from the Congo, where as many as 40,000 children are employed in cobalt mines making as little as $2 per day. These children work in unsafe working conditions and wash the ore in rivers. Much of the cobalt is then shipped to China for processing.
Minnesota could help offset the demand for some of this cobalt, but certainly not all of it. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our part, and in this regard, we can certainly help.
The graph below shows cobalt deposits in the United States. As you can see, the Maturi deposit, which would be mined by Twin Metals Minnesota, pending approval of its environmental permits, and the Northmet deposit, which would be mined by PolyMet, are two of the three largest cobalt deposits in the United States. PolyMet is the closest to production, but so-called environmental groups have attempted to litigate the project to death, suing at every step along the way.
Interestingly, Congressional Democrat leaders were unwilling to add an amendment that gave teeth to bans on child mining. The Wall Street Journal also noted:
Last week, Mr. DeFazio substituted a manager’s amendment to the bill that removed Mr. Stauber’s amendment. The manager’s amendment says that “it is the policy of the United States” that funds “should not be used to purchase products produced whole or in part through the use of child labor,” but includes no enforcement mechanism.
The Oregon Democrat claimed Mr. Stauber’s amendment was unnecessary since U.S. trade agreements prohibit child labor. But we have no agreement with Congo or Zimbabwe. China, which processes most minerals, hasn’t removed child labor from its supply chains. Mr. DeFazio knows that certification would therefore be impossible, but some progressive principles have to give when you’re trying to save the Earth from the evils of fossil fuels.
This is what makes anti-mining, pro-renewables groups like the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy blatant hypocrites. These organizations even say they care about things like racial equality and environmental justice, but how is the exploitation of children in the Congo in some of the worst working and environmental conditions contributing to this goal in the slightest?
Isn’t this the worst kind of Neo-Resource Colonialism one could imagine?
Comfortable urban liberals love to thumb their nose at Northern Minnesotans who support the mining industry and see it as a vital part of their past, present, and future, but they rarely are forced to acknowledge that their “not this mine, not this place” mentality is the epitome of environmental privilege.