Axios Pro Exclusive Content

Hunter Biden's mine truth

headshot
Mar 9, 2023

President Biden and son Hunter arrive at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in New York last month. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

House Republicans want to investigate media reports that Hunter Biden helped China obtain a cobalt mine from an American company — but that company now says it didn't happen that way.

Why it matters: Hunter Biden’s ties to the mine deal appear to be thinner than previous media reports suggested, so Republicans could end up with little to show for it if they try to focus on the mine deal in their investigations.

Driving the news: Last year, Rep. James Comer — now chairman of the House Oversight Committee — wrote a letter to the National Archives asking for records and asserting that the Obama administration “curiously did nothing to intervene in Hunter Biden’s Chinese-backed transaction.”

  • Now, the GOP majority “absolutely” wants to investigate, Oversight spokesman Austin Hacker told Axios, as part of a search for info that Republicans say could prove politically damaging to President Biden, Hunter’s father.
  • When Axios recently asked about the mine deal, Comer said: “We’re following the money, everywhere money was transferred into Biden interests.”

The details: In late 2021, The New York Times reported that a firm linked to Hunter Biden had “helped secure cobalt for the Chinese” in 2016, when his father was still vice president.

  • According to the Times, BHR Partners — an investment firm the younger Biden cofounded with U.S. and Chinese business partners — “helped facilitate” the sale of a cobalt mine "from an American company" to China Molybdenum, a state-backed mining company.

Reality check: Freeport-McMoRan, the American mining company involved in the deal, provided a statement to Axios asserting that the Hunter-linked firm was not involved in selling Freeport-McMoRan's majority ownership of the mine.

  • BHR was not mentioned in media releases at the time of the Freeport-China Molybdenum deal announcement.
  • “BHR Partners did not play a role in our sale and was not a party to this sale,” Dan Kravets, Freeport vice president of corporate development and exploration, said in a statement.

The Biden-linked firm did get involved with the mine — but that's where things get complex.

  • After the Freeport deal was announced, BHR helped China Molybdenum acquire a minority stake in the project from Lundin Mining — a company headquartered in Canada.
  • Lundin Mining had multiple options when the Freeport-China Molybdenum deal was announced: let the deal proceed, acquire Freeport's shares instead, or sell its stake in the mine, too.
  • Toronto-based Lundin opted to sell its shares to China Molybdenum. According to corporate statements at the time, that deal was "subject to ... the completion of Freeport’s sale."

Simply put, this means the Chinese firm got its deal for the controlling stake in the mine before BHR got involved, and BHR was apparently not involved in the transaction most central to China securing control of the mine.

The big picture: Given all that, it’s unclear whether there was a way the U.S., or Obama officials, could have ever gotten involved in the part of the deal in which BHR was involved.

  • There’s certainly a lot to say about the deal when it comes to foreign policy: Freeport selling the mine meant the U.S. lost a valuable mineral resource key to the EV market.
  • Republicans on Oversight have suggested the probe would be about “trying to figure out if steps need to be taken” to prevent similar transactions in the future (E&E News).
  • And as outlined in their letter last year, the purpose of this probe would be to investigate how "Hunter Biden appear[ed] to have profited in the short-term directly from America’s long-term loss."

What they’re saying: Asked about the Freeport statement, Hacker, the Oversight spokesman, said the mine deal still "warrants scrutiny."

  • "[T]he fact remains that this transaction occurred with a Chinese entity, at the expense of American interests, and has a connection to former Vice President Biden through his family's involvement," Hacker said.
  • Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Hunter Biden said of the statement: “Another wild Biden family conspiracy theory debunked by the facts."
  • "Instead of actually governing or helping improve the lives of Americans," the spokesperson said, "Rep. Comer and his Republican colleagues are wasting money and time doing the bidding of Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon and their band of associates."
  • New York Times spokesman Charlie Stadtlander said in a statement that the outlet's reporting "clearly documented" that BHR "played a vital role in facilitating the sale" of the mine. He did not address Freeport's statement.
  • "Multiple parties involved in the transaction interviewed by The Times and financial documents filed in China showed how the Chinese-government-backed financing BHR provided was a key part in closing the overall deal by completing the Chinese company's purchase of the mine's minority stake owned by Lundin Mining," he said.
  • The White House declined to comment.
Go deeper
Axios Pro

This article is currently free.