How the invasion of Ukraine became part of the debate over copper-nickel mining in northern Minnesota – by Walker Orenstein (Minn Post – March 14, 2022)

Companies and governments around the world have pulled out of Russia after the country invaded Ukraine last month, and the war has even sparked lawmakers in Minnesota to consider divesting state pension funds from companies tied to Russia in the midst of the humanitarian crisis. The Russian invasion has also now raised questions about Minnesota’s mining industry.

Both supporters and opponents of two potential copper-nickel mines have used the war in Ukraine to underscore their stances on the projects. Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, an advocacy group opposing Toronto-based PolyMet Mining’s project near Hoyt Lakes, says Russia’s attacks are just one more reason the mine should be stopped. That’s because, in part, PolyMet’s majority owner has business ties with Russia.

At the same time, mining supporters — including Rep. Spencer Igo, R-Grand Rapids, and other Minnesota House Republicans — have said the federal government should support the Twin Metals Minnesota mine near Ely and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to reduce the country’s reliance on Russian-made metals.

The Putin connection

Glencore, the giant Switzerland-based commodities trader, owns nearly-three quarters of the shares of PolyMet, which is developing an open-pit mine for copper, nickel, cobalt and other metals.

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