This Colorado steel mill ‘built the American west,’ but its ownership has ties to Russia
The steel mill that looms over low-slung neighborhoods in Pueblo, Colorado, is a rare bright spot for American manufacturing. Once part of the state’s largest private employer, pumping out steel that was used to build rail lines across the Western US, it is now in the midst of a major expansion and recently became the world’s first steel plant to run almost entirely on solar power.
But in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, the steelworkers and their city are grappling with an unpleasant reality that is no longer easy to ignore: The mill is owned by a company that has been accused of potentially supplying steel to build Russian tanks and whose largest stakeholder is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The plant, which still ranks among the largest employers in the small city of Pueblo, was bought in 2007 by Evraz, one of Russia’s major steel-producing companies. Evraz’s biggest shareholder is the oligarch Roman Abramovich, who was sanctioned by the United Kingdom, the European Union and Canada last month.
In announcing its sanctions, the UK government alleged that Abramovich controlled Evraz and that the company was “potentially supplying steel to the Russian military which may have been used in the production of tanks.” Abramovich was involved in “destabilising Ukraine” through Evraz, the sanctions office wrote.
Evraz, which owns several other steel plants in Oregon and Canada in addition to the Pueblo mill, has denied that it supplies the Russian military and tried to distance itself from Abramovich. But its stock fell by 90% from the beginning of the year before it was suspended from the London Stock Exchange in the wake of the invasion, and its entire board of directors quit. The company nearly defaulted on its debt last month due to a sanctions-related delay in a bond payment.
Evraz’s North American subsidiary and its employees say the steel produced in the US is not going to Russia. The North American operation doesn’t send money to the parent company, and its profits are reinvested in its US and Canadian operations, according to executives.