Glencore's Montana aluminum plant (
by Steve Timmer
Jul 29, 2013, 9:30 AM

Glencore: corporate citizen

The sound you hear is scales falling

Glencore, the Swiss company, as many of you know, is the largest shareholder in Polymet, the Canadian company that has applied to Commissioner Tom Landwehr and the Minnesota DNR for a permit to dig the Great Sulphur Hole — and build Brimstone Mountain, too — near Hoyt Lakes.

Just for good order’s sake, for your own edification, and for possible discussions you may wish to have with Commissioner Landwehr or the Governor, I recommend that you perform this Google search and mosey through some of the hits; they’re quite interesting.

For example, Glencore’s been in the news in Montana lately: a little dust up over a Superfund site designation. Nothing serious, I’m sure!

Glencore owns the CFAC aluminum plant along the Flathead River in Columbia Falls, MT (CFAC stands for Columbia Falls Aluminum Company). You can see the Flathead River flowing serenely by the plant in the photo above. The Flathead drains, inter alia, the mountains that you can also see in the photo above.

The plant has been shuttered for some time — probably having to do with the price of aluminum or the price of power; it all your fault people, for recycling all those pop cans — and a lot of people in and around Columbia Falls think it’s an environmental mess, and that the site cannot be used for anything else (since Glencore doesn’t seem to want it) unless it’s cleaned up. In fact, they think it should be a Superfund site.

To which Glencore replies, “What aluminum?”

The Flathead Beacon had a story about the situation recently that included this:

But while the possibility of reopening the plant is not officially dead, at least one of the two senators appears completely fed up with Glencore – a feeling shared by local officials, state lawmakers and hundreds of former workers who were laid off without a severance package, some after decades of service to the aluminum company.

In an interview, Tester said he was not aware of the Iran report [that Glencore sold aluminum to Iran, which you can also read about in the linked story] nor was he aware of some of the other allegations against Glencore, which include human rights violations in Africa, pollution and tax evasion. But, after his dealings with Glencore over the last three-plus years, the senator said he wasn’t surprised the company has been involved in controversy.

A frustrated Tester said last week he can no longer take Glencore at its word. He said the company strung him and BPA [Bonneville Power Association] along during power contract negotiations and has proven to only care about maximizing profit, not providing jobs in a depressed area of Montana that needs them.

The scales have fallen from Sen. Tester’s eyes. It would be nice if they fell from Commissioner Landwehr and the Governor’s eyes, too.

Glencore is like your drunken brother-in-law that your wife invited to stay with you, and now you can’t get rid of him or even talk to him about leaving.

P.S. I personally have no drunken brothers-in-law. It’s just a figure of speech.

Update: Montana’s Senator John Tester is not the only one who finds Glencore and its new merger partner Xstra’s labor practices to be odious. How about Canada, South Africa, Argentina, Australia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Colombia, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast and Zambia, among others.

According to the linked post:

Recent research published in the journal Foreign Policy shows that Glencore’s fundamental business model relies on operations in weak governance zones where public scrutiny and transparency are frequently absent.

When the mainstream Foreign Policy is on your case, you know you are an outlier.

But we will shortly find out whether Minnesota is one of those “weak governance zones,” won’t we?

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