Political Matters: The Iran Connection


mordecai_specktor_some.jpgIn my column last month, I wrote about

a multinational corporation, Glencore Xstrata, which has compiled a

remarkable history of environmental pollution, labor and human rights

abuses and corruption of elected officials. As it happens, Glencore

is the major investor in Canadian-based PolyMet Mining Corp., which

is seeking government approval for its NorthMet

copper-nickel-precious metals mine near Babbit, in northeastern


As I have noted in columns over the

past several years, the proposed mine and mill are within the 1854

Treaty Ceded Territory. The Ojibwe bands in the region – Fond du

Lac, Bois Forte and Grand Portage – are participating in the

environmental review process. The bands are concerned that toxic mine

wastes could migrate into lakes, rivers and groundwater and destroy

wild rice beds, etc.

This is not wild speculation: hard

rock mining across the West has been a catalog of environmental

disasters. The National Wildlife Federation says: “The mining

industry is the single largest source of toxic waste and one of the

most environmentally destructive industries in the country. Today’s

massive mining operations involve blasting, excavating, and crushing

many thousands of acres of land and treating the ore with huge

quantities of toxic chemicals such as cyanide and sulfuric acid. The

mines that produce our gold, silver, copper, and uranium are

notorious for polluting adjacent streams, lakes, and groundwater with

toxic by-products.”

Perhaps readers of The Circle are

tiring of my columns about the dangers of sulfide mining; but I think

that, apart from global climate change, this is the most serious

environmental threat facing Minnesota. So, if the editor approves,

I’ll keep riding this horse for a while.

And, with the involvement of Glencore

Xstrata in the mining play Up North, it gets worse.

Near the end of my June column, I noted

that “news reports have tied Glencore to providing alumina to

Iran’s nuclear program, after the U.S., European Union and the

United Nations imposed trade sanctions on Tehran.”

The repressive clerical regime in Iran

has been linked to global terrorism. And following the disputed 2009

elections, the Iranian government unleashed a wave of police and goon

brutality against its own citizens. Amnesty International reported

that “in June 2009, thousands of people were arbitrarily arrested,

dozens were killed on the streets or died in detention, and many said

they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated.”

And the fundamentalist religious

leaders of Iran are proceeding with a uranium enrichment program

cloaked in secrecy, which could eventually lead to the development of

nuclear weapons. Nukes are a bad idea all around; Iran with the bomb

would be a horrific state of affairs and likely lead to a nuclear

arms race in the Middle East.

Although the nations of the world have

instituted sanctions on Iran, in an attempt to stop its nuclear

program, in2013, both Glencore Xstrata and Trafigura, another

Switzerland-based firm, were mentioned as violators of sanctions

against Iran, by a confidential United Nations Panel of Experts


In March 2013, Reuters reported that

Glencore “had supplied thousands of tons of alumina to an Iranian

firm that has provided aluminum to Iran’s nuclear program,

anallegation Glencore confirmed as accurate.”

In May 2013, Reuters noted that “U.N.

experts, who monitor compliance with the Iran sanctions regime,

raised the possibility that the swap deals were a means of flouting

restrictions on trade with Iran … ‘If confirmed, such

transactions may reflect an avenue for procurement of a raw material

in a manner that circumvents sanctions,’ the 49-page [U.N.] report

said in reference to the media reports on the swap deals. ‘The

companies involved have stated that they have halted those


In response to these press reports,

Glencore said that it “complies with applicable laws and

regulations, including applicable sanctions.”

In a recent development, the New York

State Department of Financial Services (DFS) has issued subpoenas to

four U.S. insurance companies (Chubb Corp., CNA, Liberty Mutual Group

and Navigators Group, Inc.) that reportedly “had issued

marine-cargo policies for commodities firm Glencore Xstrata PLC

allegedly tied to the Iran metals trade,” according to an April

report in the Wall Street Journal.

I wrote about the Glencore-Iran

connection in the June 20 edition of the American Jewish World, which

I edit and publish. I sent a copy of the editorial to Gov. Mark

Dayton and other Minnesota officials dealing with permit approvals

for the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine. Minnesota DNR

Commissioner Tom Landwehr responded that my editorial will be

included in the record “for possible use as we proceed” with the

NorthMet environmental impact statement.