Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Journal of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI). Asbestos Free India campaign of BANI is inspired by trade union movement and right to health campaign. BANI has been working since 2000. It works with peoples movements, doctors, researchers and activists besides trade unions, human rights, environmental, consumer and public health groups. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Quebec Government Backs Jeffrey Asbestos Mine

Note:Quebec and Canada continue to pursue parochial and myopic policies that are quite quixotic. It is defending its indefensible asbestos exports despite the damage it does to Canada’s international reputation which far outweighs its economic interests.

Gopal Krishna
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)

International lobbyists promoting asbestos use in developing countries for decades

Aug 30, 2010

The dangers of asbestos are now well documented. Most people in the developed world assume that use of the cancer-causing fiber is banned, but that is not true. A recent report by a group of British investigative journalists documents found shocking levels of asbestos still in use throughout the developing world. Two million tons of asbestos was mined in 2009, and half of it was delivered to countries like Mexico and India. Of course, asbestos use has not been banned even in the United States.

Experts agree that any exposure to asbestos is dangerous, but industry and trade organizations that depend on the income from asbestos mining and sale spend millions to convince builders in developing countries that some types of asbestos are safe. Such a long period of time passes between exposure to asbestos and resulting diseases such as mesothelioma that it might be 40 years or more before the full impact of this deadly deal becomes apparent, particularly in Canada and Russia where it is mined and in countries including India and China where it is used. Asbestos disease, unfortunately, is not a thing of the past.

For the full story, go to Huffington Post.

Quebec Asbestos Mine Gets Government Backing

Quebec government will guarantee a $3.5-million line of credit for the Jeffrey asbestos mine in Asbestos, Quebec. Now the mine will be able to pump out more asbestos for the next month while it hunts for asbestos investors. The Jeffrey mine is looking for a cash injection of $58 million for a new underground mine at the site.

Ironically, The Canadian government recently announced it will spend C$600,000 on two studies at mining sites in the city of Thetford Mines in Quebec, to look at potential waste management strategies. Thetford was one of the world’s biggest asbestos-producing regions, until asbestos dust was linked with cancer and lung disease. Natural Resources Canada said the study “will help determine if post-mining activities can be conducted on the site to minimize waste and transform it into environmentally friendly resources for other uses.” The project falls under the federal government’s new C$8-million green mining initiative, which aims to improve the mining sector’s environmental performance and create green technology opportunities.

Who are they kidding? Does the Canadian government think we are na├»ve enough to believe that anything green and “environmentally friendly” can stem from asbestos?

In August, mine owner Bernard Coulombe told The Sherbrooke Record that the Jeffrey asbestos mine faces permanent shutdown if financing by the Quebec government is not granted. According to the Record, Coulombe told Economic development minister Clement Gignac that all he needed was a loan guarantee of $58 million.

Gignac agreed in principle to that guarantee, but said the mine needs another financial partner to pay an extra $15 million to the project that was not part of the loan. “The government hired industry auditor KPMG to do an audit of our operation and they stipulated that to complete work on the underground shaft would require special contractors, instead of allowing us to do the work ourselves,” he said.

Coulombe said two potential investors, one from London and another from India, will be visiting the premises next month. China already backed out.

Poor Coulombe. He says he cannot find other partners because of the negative publicity his fiber has been getting by anti-asbestos critics who want to shut down the industry in Quebec permanently. He argues that the Chrysotile-type fiber is not dangerous if handled properly.

“When you get people like (federal Liberal party leader Michael) Ignatieff saying Canada should ban all exports of chrysotile, then investors get scared that their money will be lost if the Liberals come to power,” Coulombe said.“It is difficult for me to convince them otherwise.”

Asbestos mining resumes for now

Jeffrey mine Agency provides $3.5-million loan

The nearly exhausted Jeffrey Mine in the town of Asbestos will resume operations for the month of September in a last-ditch bid to woo foreign investors to a proposed new underground mine at the site.

Thanks to a $3.5 million line of credit guaranteed by Investissement Quebec, the Quebec government's investment arm, the insolvent Jeffrey Mine will be able to temporarily resume operations at its existing open pit mine.

The company is under bankruptcy protection, and owner Bernard Coulombe said this summer he would have to close the mine on July 1 if Quebec did not guarantee a $58 million loan required to develop the underground mine.

But a credit line from the Banque nationale will allow the company to pay its 250 workers for the next month and to supply asbestos to some of its clients. Most importantly, the temporary reopening gives the company a better shot at convincing visiting investors that Canada's controversial asbestos industry has a future.

"The reason we are guarantying this line of credit is essentially that the company wants to show its clients they can have confidence in its ability to provide a quality product and to pay its employees," said Josee Beland, a spokesperson for Investissement Quebec.

"But the company is also looking for investors (in the expansion project), and they want to be able to show visitors an operating mine," she added.

The company will have to repay the $3.5 million by Dec. 31, she said, or Investissement Quebec will be responsible for repaying the bank.

Beland said the recent barrage of letters from medical and scientific organizations around the world condemning Quebec's continued support of the asbestos industry did not cause Investissement Quebec to hesitate in its decision to provide the funding guarantee.

"We are a financial institution and the company has requested help to temporarily recall its employees and to supply its clients with their product, but it is up to the government to decide if it will pursue investment in this company and its product in the long term," Beland said.

Investissement Quebec is run by a board of directors, but is under the jurisdiction of Economic Development Minister Clement Gignac. A spokesperson for Gignac said the minister had no comment on the issue yesterday.

Mine owner Bernard Coulombe was not available for comment yesterday, but he told a local newspaper recently that two potential investors, one from London and another from India, will be visiting the premises next month. He also said he now hopes to have an answer from Gignac's office regarding the loan guarantee by the end of this year.

The demand for asbestos is high, especially in developing countries where the relatively cheap, heat-resistant fibre is used to reinforce cement for construction. But the worldwide movement to ban asbestos use has been steadily gaining ground, and frightening away potential investors in the Jeffrey project.

The World Health Organization, the Canadian Medical Association and the Association medicale du Quebec, among others, have taken official stands against the continued use of chrysotile asbestos because the fibres cause deadly diseases when inhaled. Quebec exports most of its asbestos to developing countries where its handling is poorly regulated.

By MICHELLE LALONDE, The Gazette August 28, 2010
The Montreal Gazette
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