An obscure US government agency has provided $315m in taxpayer-supported financing over the past decade to a company that has supplied equipment to African mines accused of slave labor, human rights violations and environmental destruction.
Between 2007 and 2015, the US Export-Import Bank provided 48 insurance policies to the New Jersey-headquartered Connell Company to pursue deals with at least 17 mining companies in seven sub-Saharan countries.
These included a $20,000 policy to supply equipment to the Bisha copper mine in Eritrea, which is being investigated by a Canadian court amid accusations of slavery, according to an investigation of the bank by the Guardian and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism’s Energy and Environment Reporting Project.
The bank provides US exporters with financing – in the form of loans, guarantees and insurance policies – to sell goods and services overseas. Bank officials say they create US jobs and fill a financing gap by allowing companies to access funding when private lenders will not.
But Nevsun Resources, the Canadian mining company that controls Bisha, faces a lawsuit in which 30 plaintiffs allege that the mine engaged two Eritrean state-run contractors and the army to force hundreds of military conscripts to work there under abhorrent conditions.
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