A powerful U.S. political family is linked to copper mining in the Amazon rainforest


He was a founding advisor to the American Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce and did business with the organization’s head, Reza Vaziri, a high-ranking Iranian official before the revolution, according to his company biography. They worked with the government to acquire mining rights in Azerbaijan in 1997, before being absorbed by a British company, Anglo Asian Mining PLC, in 2005.

Vaziri becomes CEO of Anglo Asian and Sununu joins the board.As recently as 2009, the Sununu Family Trust also owned more than $50,000 in stock in the company, the last time a member of the family held a federally elected office, requiring financial disclosure List its assets. According to the latest annual report of Enya Resources, Vaziri and Sununu are still the largest shareholders of the company.

Over the years, Inya Mining has expanded its operations in Azerbaijan and now holds the rights to mine gold, copper and silver deposits in eight contract areas across the country. Azerbaijan has lost and gained some opportunities due to its decades-long conflict with Armenia. The company has largely avoided the conflict but has come under criticism from the international Armenian community after celebrating the two countries’ “liberation” of a mining area through a 2020 peace deal.A U.K.-based Armenian group has accused IndAsia of “exploitation” Conflict over economic interests.

“Inya Mining has an excellent track record and is committed to best practice in operating its mines and production facilities,” a company spokesman said. “The company works with stakeholders at local and national levels to maintain its high level of environmental and social stewardship – and will continue to do so as it expands its business.”

The company only ventured into mining outside of Azerbaijan when Michael Sununu, who runs several family businesses in New Hampshire with his brother James, joined the board in late 2020. It became the largest shareholder in Libero Copper & Gold as the Canadian company seeks funds to boost its exploration at the Mocoa site, giving John H. a nearly 2% stake in Libero. As part of the deal, Michael joined Libero’s board of directors.

Many political families have large business interests, but international investments, especially board memberships, raise the most ethical concerns among public officials, said Virginia Kantor, chief ethics counsel at the Washington Institute for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.

“Foreign affairs can raise questions about favoritism, prejudice, undue influence and the potential for corruption,” she said. “As the world becomes more globalized, these family opportunities have escalated, and their importance may have escalated in turn.”

The United States is a key market for the green energy metal as the country looks to boost imports and secure supplies to meet its climate goals. A company presentation posted on Libero’s website in March highlighted the potential of the United States as a major export market for the copper it hopes to produce at its Colombian mine.

“[Board membership] “This suggests a higher level of involvement and profit linkages than someone who just owns some random amount of stock,” OpenSecrets’ Baumgart said. But the scope and impact of those linkages is hard to track because financial disclosure requirements vary by type of elected official, And most U.S. financial disclosures only require officials to include information on spouses and dependents, not parents, siblings or other family members.

The Sununu father and son board members also share another passion — they are both outspoken critics of the scientific consensus on man-made climate change.John’s efforts at the White House in the late 1980s credited As one of the main reasons why the United States did not sign a binding climate agreement sooner.Michael opposes climate science-based policy and legislation at the state level, as well as in op-eds and a research paper Published by the free market think tank of which his father and brother serve on the board.

Both John H. and Michael declined to comment on their views on climate change or their business holdings, referring NBC News to a statement provided by Inya Mining.

Libero CEO Harris said that while he could not comment on anyone’s beliefs, the issue of climate change denial did not come up at any of Libero’s board meetings. “I don’t think it had a significant impact on the company’s strategy, if any,” he said, adding that he had never met John H. Sununu or heard Michael Sununu “share those feelings.”

Chris is the only family member currently serving as an elected official above the local level. In six of his 13 years in public office in New Hampshire, including six as governor, he developed a unique approach to energy for the region, opposing various climate change initiatives in neighboring states and vetoing energy transition legislation. 2019, New Hampshire Public Radio Podcast put in an hour Examining governors and their families’ ties to climate change.

“Governor Sununu recognizes that human actions are causing climate change,” said Brandon Platt, his deputy communications director. “During his tenure as governor, he supported multiple clean energy bills and has been a strong supporter of hydroelectric and solar development projects to protect taxpayers from onerous subsidies.”

The governor’s investment is opaque.his new hampshire financial disclosure It shows that over the past four years, he has received more than $10,000 a year from Sununu Holdings, the family trust that took a stake in Inya Mining in 2009. But New Hampshire does not require him to list trust assets, so there are no public records showing whether he personally holds small stakes in the two mining companies.

“Governor Sununu was not involved in the operations of Anglo Asian Mining or the operations of Sununu Holdings and submitted all financial disclosures required by law,” Pratt said.

After hinting and taking initial steps towards a potential presidential bid, the governor announced in early June that he would not be running in 2024. Sununu did not rule out running for the country’s highest office in the future.He’s still on the national stage — as governor of the first major state, he’s dream consultant to the candidates in the crowded Republican primary. If he runs in the future, he will have to file a federal disclosure document with more details of his assets within 30 days of being identified as a candidate by the Federal Election Commission.

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Mocoa, the only active copper mining project in the Colombian Amazon, conflicts with the country’s other major environmental goal: protecting the rainforest.

The land Libero is entitled to explore includes nearly 7 square miles of a forest reserve known as the Upper Mokoya River Basin Forest Reserve, and 5.7 square miles of two Aboriginal reservations, including Pasuy’s. The two square mile Libero claims overlap with the reserve and one of the reserves.

Harris told NBC News that Libero plans to create a small underground mining operation that will slowly exploit the roughly 100-hectare (247-acre) deposit just outside the boundaries of the forest reserve, and it could take a century to extract everything from the site. Long-term operations have a small footprint, generate far less waste than more common surface mining, and cause little or no additional deforestation, he said. According to a May press release, Libero is currently investigating how to use “innovation and technology to minimize the project’s environmental footprint.”

The company also owns Supported Reforestation Projects The region has had one of the highest rates of deforestation in the country in recent years. Harris said it is exploring on private land in a small farming community that has been working closely with the company, but an operating mine could be four to 10 years away.

Libero said in a shareholder report that it plans to petition the government to allow mining under forest reserves, as half of the minerals it can mine in deposits lie under protected areas. “Libero believes that as part of the environmental licensing phase of the project, they will obtain access to forest reserves for mining purposes,” an April filing said. “However, if the Colombian government decides not to grant access to the area, this would significantly limit the size of the resource-constrained pit shell and have a significant impact on the size of the mineral resource.”



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