Political Matters: The Iran Connection
Monday, July 07 2014
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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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 Minnesota.

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 report.

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 transactions.’”

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.

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