The Trump administration has worked to reverse course on the Obama administration's efforts to protect the Boundary Waters, a pristine wilderness area in Minnesota, from a copper mining project near the area. But the renewed leases are being scrutinized after the revelation of a personal connection between Andrónico Luksic, a Chilean billionaire whose family controls the mining conglomerate attempting to renew leases for its operations in Minnesota, and Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
Shortly before President Trump entered the Oval Office, Luksic purchased a $5.5 million house in Washington, D.C. to add to his personal investment portfolio. Within a week, Kushner and Ivanka Trump had reportedly worked out an arrangement to rent the home. The Wall Street Journal first reported about the home in 2017, while Twin Metals, a subsidiary of Luksic's conglomerate that is seeking the leases in Minnesota, was suing the federal government. Twin Metals has since increased its lobbying efforts. That's raised ethics concerns, both from environmental groups seeking to protect the Boundary Waters and Democrats in Congress, the Times reports.
For example, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, argued in a letter that the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture both "blatantly ignored scientific and economic evidence," while also mentioning the "interesting coincidence" surrounding the rental agreement.
Rodrigo Terré, chair of Luksic's family investment office, said the arrangement is nothing more than a simple real estate transaction, unrelated to the Minnesota mine. A spokeswoman for the Department of the Interior also said Kushner and Ivanka Trump have not been involved in discussions. That hasn't helped alleviate everyone's concerns, though.
"There may be nothing wrong," Arthur Andrew Lopez, a former federal government ethics official, said. "But it doesn't look good." Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell