Minnesota activists have gone to court challenging the Trump administration’s approval of a wilderness area ore mine to be operated by a billionaire Chilean who owns the mansion that Ivanka Trump rents in Washington.
A coalition of Minnesota businesses, environmental advocates and outdoor recreation groups asked for a summary judgment last month in their lawsuit against the Interior Department and Chilean copper conglomerate Antofagasta’s local subsidiary. The company plans an extensive sulfide-ore mine to extract copper and nickel in Minnesota’s Rainy River watershed, which drains into the protected 1.1 million-acre Boundary Waters wilderness area.
The lawsuit challenges the Trump administration’s reversal of an Obama-era decision blocking the mine and requiring an environmental impact study. Some of the mine would be on U.S. Forest Service land, and the lawsuit asks a federal judge to rule that the Trump administration wrongly reinstated mineral leases for the Antofagasta subsidiary, called Twin Metals Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
The nonprofit Save the Boundary Waters called the Trump decision a “big fat Christmas gift for a giant foreign mining corporation willing to do anything to exploit the watershed of Minnesota’s crown jewel wilderness.” The mining operation threatens to contaminate a key water source and destroy the area’s ecosystem, the environmental groups say.
Antofagasta is a family-owned company headed by Chilean businessman Andrónico Luksic, who bought a $5.5 million mansion in Washington shortly after Donald Trump won the presidency. Luksic now rents the mansion to the first daughter and husband Jared Kushner for $15,000 a month, The Wall Street Journal has reported.
Richard Painter, who was President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer and is now a law professor at the University of Minnesota, accused the Trump administration of allowing Luksic to use the Boundary Waters area “as his toilet.”
Painter told Newsweek that the landlord-tenant relationship between Luksic and Ivanka Trump “looks bad.” Trump and Kushner “have enough money [that] they could have bought a house or rented something from somebody who wasn’t trying to get things from the U.S. government,” he said.
Trump and Kushner “were not aware” of the link between the mining operation and their landlord, a White House official told The Wall Street Journal in 2017. A spokesman for Luksic said he purchased the mansion as an investment and renting it to the president’s family was coincidental, according to the Journal.
The mining planned by Antofgasta has serious environmental risks because copper is extracted from sulfur-bearing ore. When exposed to oxygen or water, the ore generates toxic sulfuric acid that can pollute nearby waters, the Star Tribune noted.
In 2017, the president blasted Hillary Clinton for a uranium mining operation in the U.S. that he falsely claimed she had approved selling to a Russian company.