Controversy is brewing in Kentucky around Rusal’s attempt to establish the first new aluminium rolling mill in the United States in over three decades, as Democrats in the U.S. Congress say the move requires a review for national security issues.
According to some congressmen, the US$200 million investment in the greenfield project by Rusal should first be vetted by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which is vested with the power to study investments by foreign individuals and firms with an eye toward potential risks or implications to national security.
Though Rusal was released from sanctions by the Federal government early this year, Democrats in Congress penned a letter last month questioned the wisdom of allowing Rusal to participate in the US$1.7 billion project due to ties they say the company still has to Russian politicians.
Meanwhile Braidy Industries, who will be Rusal’s partner in the venture, argues that the project falls outside the CFIUS’s purview, as the Committee’s own regulations specify greenfield projects as unreviewable. However, a letter by the Treasury Department earlier this week contradicts Braidy’s interpretation.
Also questioning Braidy’s position was Oregon’s Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, whose office said earlier this week that the firm was taking an overly broad interpretation of the term “greenfield.”
“Based on available information, En+, through Rusal, is investing in an existing U.S. business that already has agreements in place to supply materials to the Department of Defense,” opined a spokesperson from his office. “This is not a brand new business.”
Kentucky’s government is keen on the project though, noting the significant boost the project will have to the local economy. The commonwealth committed to invest US$15 million in the new aluminium rolling mill, as the plant could bring tens of thousands of jobs at and around the plant. Such a development would be warmly welcome in an area whose economic prospects have been hollowed out by the demise of the coal industry, where unemployment has recently risen to as high as 40 percent.