Business deal may be closing off the cobalt market

Written by by Kevin Meagher, CNN

Hunter Biden is best known as the son of former Vice President Joe Biden. Now, however, he’s facing some offensiveness of his own.

Hunter Biden is the vice president’s brother and a principal of Heritage Exploration, a major player in Canada’s cobalt trade, according to Bloomberg. He’s served on the board of shareholder RLB Resources — an unnamed firm that owns Algo Minerals, which bought the giant Blythe Cobalt Mining Company earlier this year.

That acquisition, worth $3.8 billion, will reportedly end up having a minimal impact on Cobalt Resource’s operations, but has already come under a great deal of criticism for expanding the already long list of firms profiting from the cobalt trade.

New York University economist Nouriel Roubini condemned the deal, calling it a “crime.”

“The Chinese are exploiting the mines, the Canadians are exploiting the mine and others are exploiting the people involved,” he said. “The price for cobalt is just too low. We need to do something about this, or the price will get out of control.”

The mine is the largest in the world, with a production capacity of 400,000 tons per year, and is located 60 miles southwest of Vancouver, Canada. The ownership change comes at a time when the cobalt price has skyrocketed.

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In the year to March, the price of cobalt oxide skyrocketed by 119% to a record high of $20,400 a ton, according to Bloomberg.

According to the report, Freedom Watch of New York, a watchdog group, slammed the deal as “endangering the workers at Blythe and the surrounding areas.” The group cited what it describes as a recent study by Oxfam detailing environmental abuses and forced labor at mines across the world.

Threatening as he may be, Joseph Biden is not the only politician named in the Cobalt Resources deal. Although his younger brother is vice president’s brother, Alice, of the elite economic research firm Carlyle Group, also serves on the board of RLB Resources. Her husband, Edward Taubman, is the CEO of the accounting and financial services firm Taubman Centers, which is responsible for purchasing the massive Blythe mine, according to Bloomberg.

Some members of Congress also spoke out about the deal, including U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar.

“When a company like Heritage Exploration buys a miner like Blythe Cobalt Minerals that’s a world-class operation, my first question to them is ‘where’s the supply?’ It doesn’t make sense to put the only major cobalt mine under the control of one company when you need to provide American manufacturers the raw materials they need to keep the economy running,” she said.

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