The Chinese company in which Hunter Biden held a stake invested in a
Congolese mine that was the site of gross human rights abuses and at
least one death.
Biden, son of Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden, joined the
board of Chinese investment firm BHR in 2013, while his father served as
vice president. He purchased a 10 percent stake in the company in 2017
and maintained that stake even after he resigned from the board in
October. Among BHR's investments was the largest cobalt and copper mine
in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Tenke Fungurume mine, where the
Congolese military in June executed a brutal crackdown on illegal mining
viewed as a threat to the mine's bottom line. Since then, the
military has torched houses and cracked down on dissent in the
region—actions that drew the condemnation of human rights groups.
"Given the long history of excessive use of force by the Congolese army
and its lack of appropriate training in managing public order, the DRC
government must immediately withdraw its armed forces from the mines to
avert unlawful killings," Amnesty International spokeswoman Sarah
Jackson said in a statement.
The violence came to a head in August, when the military shot a woman
dead, according to AFP.
BHR finalized the sale of its stake in
the mine to another Chinese entity in September, a transaction that
netted the firm $1.1
billion. While Biden's legal team has claimed that the BHR shares have
yet to pay dividends, he stands to benefit financially when he sells
those shares. Biden's attorney did not respond to requests for comment
about BHR's dealings in the Congo.
Biden's international business dealings have become a campaign issue in
the 2020 Democratic primary, sparking accusations of cronyism and
spurring his decision to step down from BHR's board in October. Biden
has also pledged that, should his father be elected president, he would
not sit on the boards or work on behalf of foreign-owned companies. Joe
Biden's presidential campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
BHR leveraged financial support from China Molybdenum, a Chinese
resource company, to purchase a 24 percent stake in Congo's Tenke
Fungurume mine in 2017. The transaction gave China Molybdenum, which was
already a majority stakeholder in the Congolese mine, the "exclusive
right" to purchase BHR's stakes in the mine in the future.
Neither China Molybdenum nor BHR responded to requests for comments.
The area surrounding the Tenke Fungurume mine had more than 10,000
"artisanal" miners who often illegally acquire ores in areas reserved
for the Chinese enterprise. China Molybdenum previously identified the
illegal miners as a "significant security risk" that might affect
production output in the future. The mine's management has asked the
government to do more to secure the concession but did not urge a
military solution, according to Reuters.
The Congolese military evicted the alleged illegal miners in June,
deploying between 600 and 800 troops in the mining concession, according
Watchdog groups quickly urged the Congolese military, which has a poor
human rights record, to stand down. Amnesty International said in July
that Congo should "withdraw armed forces from Fungurume mines to avert
"The deployment of the military, if not properly managed, risks turning
into untimely human rights violations, which can damage the company's
reputation and the supply chain of Congolese cobalt," the South Africa
Resource Watch said in a statement.
The confrontation between the military and the miners quickly turned
violent. The armed forces burned down dozens of homes suspected of
belonging to illegal miners, severely burning a 3-year-old girl and
14-month-old boy in the process, according to Reuters.
Soldiers fired "stray bullets" into a mining camp that killed a woman
and injured nine others, AFP reported in
When the Congolese military began its operation, BHR was in the process
of selling its stake in the Tenke Fungurume mine to China Molybdenum.
The transaction, initiated in
January, concluded in
September, one month before Biden stepped down from the BHR board.
The current situation at the mine is unclear, though previous conflicts
in the country have led to violent outbursts requiring international
oversight. In 2004,
Congolese military personnel were tried for war crimes after they
committed atrocities in the aftermath of an operation to secure an
Australian-owned mining concession.
BHR previously partnered with a state-backed Chinese military aviation
firm to acquire a U.S. firm that held militarily sensitive technology.
The Obama administration approved the transaction. Sen. Chuck Grassley
(R., Iowa) has launched an inquiry into potential conflicts of interest
in the approval process, the Washington Free Beacon previously reported.
12, 2018Stones are rinsed and sorted near a Congo
cobalt mine. More than 60% of the world's cobalt
comes from the south-eastern provinces of DRC. Photograph:
mining, China, and the fight for Congo's minerals. The
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is attempting to
increase revenue from the 270% surge in cobalt prices in
the last year by raising taxes on the metal five-fold. Foreign
governments and corporations who benefit from lower cobalt
prices have protested the tax hike.
28, 2018Congo Dongfang says it's working to
eliminate child labor, rather than stop buying from small-scale
mines. Apple lists its parent, Huayou Cobalt, as
an approved smelter.
7, 2019How many people were killed in the Congo
genocide? The criminal king claimed Congo as his
personal territory and sent his soldiers there to kidnap
Congolese men to work as slaves to mine Congo's wealth.
Between eight and ten million people died from Leopold's genocide.
22, 2012The copper deposits in the Katanga Province of
the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the world's top
producers of cobalt and the political situation in the Congo
influences the price of ...
27, 2017A Sky News investigation has found children as
young as four working in dangerous and squalid conditions in Cobalt
mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for
as little as 8p a day. Sky's ...
Gold miners at the
Chudja mine in north-eastern Congo. Blockchain is to be
used for the first time to try to track cobalt's journey
from artisanal mines in DRC through to products used in
smartphones and electric cars. FILE PHOTO | REUTERS
20, 2018Cobalt is an essential component of
batteries for smartphones and electric cars. Around 60% of it
comes from just one country, DR Congo - and most of the
metal is exported to China.
1, 2017Lithium-ion batteries contain more cobalt
than lithium, says Lior Gantz of the Wealth Research Group, and
discusses the element's predicted shortage. News Markets
Musk says Tesla "might get into mining" - MINING.COM
9, 2018Elon Musk Needs More Cobalt -
And So Do We. China is gobbling up as much cobalt as it can:
" There's a Global Race to Control Batteries—and China Is Winning ."
" Following these acquisitions, China now controls 62% of refined cobalt
production worldwide .". China has been systematically hoarding such