MAC: Mines and Communities

Indian health experts deplore Canadian asbestos move

Published by MAC on 2011-04-27
Source: Statement, Montreal Gazette (2011-04-19)

The prospect that Canada's sole remaining asbestos mine may be re-opened, in order to supply the deadly material to Indian buyers, has incensed activists around the world - and not least in India itself.

For earlier MAC posting see:- From Quebec to India - Merchants of Death

BANI Condemns Quebec Govt's Support for asbestos mine expansion

Press Release

14 April 2011

New Delhi - Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), National Alliance for Asbestos Free India & Asbestos Mukti Andolan has condemned the Quebec government's approval of the expansion of the Jeffrey asbestos mine in Asbestos, along with a $7.5-million economic diversification fund for the region. Quebec is a province in Canada.

Lyle Hargrove, Chairperson, Occupational Clinics for Ontario Workers, Canada who was in New Delhi in March, 2011 said, "I believe that it is real Black mark on my Canada for exporting ASBESTOS to India. We have cities devastated by Asbestos Manufacturing in the sixties and 70s. Workers were dying from Asbestos diseases and others were Sick including people that work in the plants, their family was getting sick as well. I demand that Canada quit exporting Asbestos to India and quit mining in Quebec. Asbestos is too dangerous to work with and I believe there is no safe level."

Scientists and doctors ask, why is it that Canada applies strict measures domestically to protect the health of Canadians handling asbestos and yet exports asbestos to developing countries such as India, where the capacity to implement and monitor the application of similar precautionary measures is inadequate.

Collegium Ramazzini, a Italy based independent, international academy founded in 1982 by Irving J. Selikoff, Cesare Maltoni and other eminent scientists that comprises of 180 internationally renowned experts in the fields of occupational and environmental health too has called for ban on chrysotile (white) asbestos to protect public health.

Balcorp Ltd buys chrysotile (white) asbestos from the Jeffrey Mine in the town of Asbestos, about 150 kilometres northeast of Montreal, for the last 15 years. Balcorp Ltd company is an international trade and marketing firm with offices in Westmount, New Delhi and Mumbai. It sells the killer fibres of asbestos to more than a dozen asbestos products manufacturers in India.

Quebec government has shown inhuman insensitivity towards the outrage expressed by world's scientific and medical community and the India's ongoing ban asbestos movement who had sought stoppage of export of these lethal mineral fibres.

Earlier, in March 2011, while on a visit to New Delhi, Dr Alec Farquhar, Managing Director, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, Canada said, "We now have around 500 asbestos cancer cases every year in Ontario from a population of 13 million. If you (India) continue on your current path, you will multiply our death count by 100 times. That would be 50, 000 Indian workers dying every year from asbestos. In Ontario, we learned that safe use of asbestos is impossible. I urge you from the bottom of my hear, please do not make the same mistake as we made in Canada. Stop using asbestos and use a safe alternative."

The exposure to this carcinogen is a human rights violation, disturbed by asbestos consumption in India, Professor Elihu D Richter MD MPH, Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine, Israel said, "All form of asbestos kill. India should bury asbestos, not people. Here is a case for examining whether those countries which export asbestos to India are committing a crime against humanity, because they are engaging in willful neglect. India should not repeat the mistakes of going back some 70 years which will kill tens of thousands of workers and their families."

Commenting on the propaganda unleashed by Quebec's asbestos companies, Prof. Arthur L Frank,PhD, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Drexel University School of Public Health, US said, "No matter what mis-information comes of Canada or the Indian asbestos industry about Chrysotile, there is no question that science has shown that Chrysotile causes asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. This is the conclusion of World Health Organisation. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, and other organizations that have no bisases except for protecting people's health".

Prof (Dr) Qamar Rahman, fellow of National Academy of Sciences, Dean, Integral University, Lucknow & former Deputy Director, Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow asserted, "This is high time that Government of India should ban the use of asbestos in India. It has been proven scientifically that asbestos based articles such as roof ceilings, storage tanks will release fibers. The asbestos fibers will be the cause of exposure to our coming generations."

New Delhi Declaration Seeking Elimination of all forms of asbestos including chrysotile from India was adopted and endorsed by eminent scientists and doctors on 24th March, 2011 at a Round Table which happened immediately after the conclusion of International Conference on "Emerging Trends in Preventing Occupational Respiratory Diseases and Cancers in Workplace". The Declaration is attached.

The Ministry of Mines, Government of India must ensure that the existing ban on white asbestos mining is not lifted in the interest public health the proposal of Indian Bureau of Mines at the behest of asbestos mining lobby. BANI has made its submissions to the Ministry citing resolutions of WHO and ILO seeking elimination of future use of asbestos which has been endorsed by the Supreme Court of India in its January, 2011 order. There is a Bill pending in the Rajya Sabha seeking ban on white asbestos. BANi appeals to all the political parties to support the passage of the Bill to safe guard the health of present and future generations.

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), which has been working for asbestos free India. BANI has been campaigning for a asbestos free India and is assisting the Asbestos Mukti Andolan in Bihar.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Convener, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)/National Alliance for Asbestos Free India/ Asbestos
Mukti Andolan, Bihar
Mb: 09818089660, 07739308480
Email: krishna2777@gmail.com
Blog: banasbestosindia.blogspot.com


New Delhi Declaration

Seeking Elimination of all forms of Asbestos including Chrysotile from India

24 March 2011

Recalling the Ban Asbestos Resolution of 2002, WHO Resolution of 2005 and ILO Resolution of 2006 seeking elimination of future use of asbestos of all forms, in the face of massive asbestos exposure underway in India;

Taking note of The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2009 introduced in Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament) and the order of the Kerala State Human Rights Commission banning the use of asbestos in schools;

Considering the anti asbestos movement against 12 proposed asbestos plants in Bihar in face of massive people's resistance;

Outraged at the Union of India's Budget 2011-12's callous reference to asbestos by including it under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana to cover ‘unorganized sector workers in hazardous mining and associated industries like asbestos etc' and on the other hand Bihar's Deputy Chief Minister's Budget is allocating land for 4 new asbestos plants;

Recognising the fact that enviro-occupational health infrastructure in India is weak or non-existent in the face of workers and consumers who are sick and dying from asbestos-caused cancer and other related diseases;

Endorsing The STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS of The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2009 introduced in the Indian Parliament that reads: "The white asbestos is highly carcinogenic even the World Health Organisation has reported that it causes cancer. It is a rare fibrous material that is used to make rooftops (roofing material) and break (brake) linings. More than fifty countries have already banned the use and import of white asbestos. Even the countries that export it to India prefer not to use it domestically. But in our country, it is imported without any restriction. Canada and Russia are the biggest exporters of white asbestos. In 2007, Canada exported almost Ninety five percent of the white asbestos it mined and out of it forty-three percent was shipped to India. It is quite surprising that our country is openly importing huge quantity of a product, which causes cancer. This is despite the fact that safer and almost cheap alternatives to asbestos are available in the country. Instead of importing a hazardous material, it will be better if we spend some money in research and development and use environment friendly product. In view of the above, there is an urgent need for a total ban on the import and use of white asbestos and promote the use of alternative material."

Appreciating Supreme Court of India's order of 21st January, 2011 that takes cognizance of the above mentioned Bill and the resolutions of ILO and WHO and seeks government to take immediate preventive steps;

Taking cognizance of the human rights violation involved in exposing people to killer asbestos fibers and how even if few asbestos fibre reach the right places, it causes irreversible damage - leading to asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma;

Considering Government of India's role in preventing the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous product under the Rotterdam Convention, an International Agreement that requires that importing countries be warned of the risks associated with hazardous products is unbecoming of a nation of India's stature. It is unconscionable that the government knowingly allows trades in a killer product that will cause death of hundreds of thousands of people in India in general and in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Bihar and Rajasthan in particular and elsewhere in the world;

Reminding the Government of India that there is incontrovertible evidence that creates a compelling logic for making India asbestos free;

Condemning the asbestos exporting countries liaison with the Indian asbestos industry to which Government is turning a blind eye who have unleashed a misinformation campaign about controlled use of asbestos products which is a fantasy;

Disapproving Ministry of Environment & Forests Experts Appraisal Committee on Industry for approving environmental clearance of asbestos plants;

Asserting the fact that so far some 55 countries have banned all forms of asbestos, and are already using alternative materials;

Underlining that almost every international health agency of repute including the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the American Cancer Society agree there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Most recently, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reconfirmed that all commercial asbestos fibers - including chrysotile, the most commercially used form of asbestos - cause lung cancer and mesothelioma. In addition, IARC newly confirmed that there is sufficient evidence that asbestos causes ovarian cancer and reconfirmed asbestos causes laryngeal cancer;

We urge the Government to adequately compensate the victims of asbestos-related diseases, create a database of asbestos exposed people and victims as well as besides providing legal and possible medical relief and taking preventive measures. We call on the government to create a mesothelioma registry and a building registry of those facilities which have asbestos. We seek inclusion of environmental and occupational health study in the medical education of all the 300 medical colleges in India

We recommend that the Government should start efforts to decontaminate asbestos laden buildings including schools and hospitals

We express shock at the instance countries like Canada using tax-payers money and Canadian embassies to actively promote the sale of asbestos around the world;

We appeal to the Government of India to put a ban on export, import, manufacturing, use and mining of all forms of asbestos including chrysotile (white) in India.

We call upon the Government of India, State Governments in general and Bihar Government in Particular besides Indian Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Consumer Affairs and Ministry of Mines to initiate steps for an immediate ban on use, manufacture and trade of all forms of asbestos (including Chrysotile or White Asbestos).

Endorsed by:

Prof (Dr) Arthur Frank, Professor, Chair: Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Drexel University School of Public Health, US

Dr Aleck Farquhar, Managing Director, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, Canada

Professor Elihu D Richter MD MPH, Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine, Israel

Dr Yael Stein, MD, Unit of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Hebrew University, Israel, E-mail-stein444@gmail.comDr Lyle Hargrove, Chairperson, Occupational Clinics for Ontario Workers, Canada

Prof (Dr) Qamar Rahman, Fellow, National Academy of Sciences, India & former Deputy Director, Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow

Dr. T.K. Joshi, Fellow, Collegium Ramazzini, Italy


Gopal Krishna, Convener, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)/National Alliance for Asbestos Free India/ Asbestos
Mukti Andolan, Bihar
Mb: 09818089660, 07739308480
Email: krishna2777@gmail.com
Blog: banasbestosindia.blogspot.com


Canada's Provincial Government Lies to Promote Chrysotile (White) asbestos

"How many times does Quebec and Canadian government need to be proven wrong to realize that, by playing into the hands of profit mongers who are indulging in barbarism and gross human rights violation, they are sinking the reputation of Quebec and Canada for good?"

19 April 2011

Press Release

New Delhi-Stooping to an unprecedented low in order to protect the profit mongers of asbestos mining industry, statement of Clément Gignac, Economic development minister, Canadian province of Quebec has done the unthinkable by claiming "Asbestos could help save lives in India".

Gignac has been caught blatantly lying about the established toxicity of chrysotile asbestos and with regard to Supreme Court of India's order of 21st January, 2011. Gignac's claims about having studied the ruling of India's highest court saying, "I read that ruling A to Z" is an impudent lie.

Did he read this significant aspect of the order dated January 21, 2011, wherein Supreme Court's bench of Chief Justice of India Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar observed in para 15, "the Government has already presented the Bill in Rajya Sabha. The statement of objects and reasons of this Bill specifically notices that the white asbestos is highly carcinogenic and it has been so reported by the World Health Organisation. In India, it is imported without any restriction while
even its domestic use is not preferred by the exporting countries." It is noteworthy that Rajya Sabha is India's Upper House of Parliament where once Bill is introduced, it never lapses.

The Bench of Chief Justice of India notes, "Canada and Russia are the biggest exporters of white asbestos. In 2007, Canada exported 95% of the white asbestos, it mined out of which 43% was shipped to India. In view of these facts, there is an urgent need for a total ban on the import and use of white asbestos and promote the use of alternative materials. The Bill is yet to be passed but it is clearly demonstrated that the Government is required to take effective steps to prevent hazardous impact of use of asbestos."

In the light of the above, BANI seek apology from Gignac for attempting to misled the people in Quebec and Canada. He has been caught red handed.

Amidst bitter protests Gignac visited India twice and has approved support for the Jeffrey mine through a $58 million loan guarantee for blood tainted millions of dollars in taxes and royalties to Quebec which in turn will create a $7.5 million economic diversification fund for the region.

Jeffrey and its backers have to raise $25 million in financing by July 1, 2011. Montreal businessman Baljit Chadha's Balcorp Ltd must refrain from buying chrysotile asbestos from Jeffrey and selling the fibre to asbestos products manufacturers in India.

BANI salutes the role of Canadian Cancer Society which called on the Canada's provincial government to withdraw its support for the Jeffrey mine expansion and endorses their statement,. "This decision directly conflicts with global cancer control. The epidemic of asbestos-related concerns, both in Canada and around the world, will continue to spread".

The question is: how many times does Quebec and Canadian government need to be proven wrong to realize that by playing into the hands of profit mongers who are indulging in barbarism and gross human rights violation, they are sinking the reputation of Quebec and Canada for good.

Meanwhile, revealing the brutal character of asbestos companies, it has reliably been learnt that Lagadapati Rajagopal, Congress MP from Vijaywada is putting pressure on people to approve the approve the construction of a asbestos plant by Pune-based Sahyadri Industries that has proposed to establish this plant with a capacity of 1.8 lakh tonnes. Amid massive opposition to the asbestos factory, a public hearing is scheduled to be held on April 21, 2011. Some political people have warned people against disapproving the cancer causing asbestos plant at the public hearing.

The proposal of asbestos cement sheets factory at Narasimharao Palem, Veerulapalem mandal, Krishna district, Andhra Pradesh would harm the present and future generations of people of Andhra Pradesh in particular. Notably, the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)  has not been made available to the affected communities and in the absence of the Telgu version of the EIA, the public hearing must be cancelled.

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) supports the struggle of Jana Vignana Vedika and Citizens Forum Against Asbestos to stop the construction of killer plants in Andhra Pradesh

It abundantly clear that the Canadian asbestos traders have become more powerful than Governments of India, Canada and Quebec. Unmindful of the ongoing ban on asbestos in almost the entire developed world, Congress governments, its various fiscal policies and rural support schemes have been promoting asbestos based products and building materials under the influence of owners of asbestos companies.

There is at least one senior Congress leader and one MP of Indian National Congress who owns one of the biggest asbestos companies in the country. The MP's asbestos company has built a asbestos factory in Raebarely, the parliamentary constituency of Sonia Gandhi. Former Cabinet Minister and veteran party leader, G Venkat Swamy who demanded the resignation of Gandhi is the father of G Vivekanand, a Congress Party MP and G Vinod, former minister in the Congress Party in the state till 2009. Vivekanand is the owner of Visaka Industries that has built the killer asbestos plant in Gandhi's constituency.

Congress governments have been promoting asbestos companies without any moral scruples under the insurmountable influence of asbestos producers of Quebec, Canada and manufacturers in India. Pranab Mukherjee, the Finance Minister has included asbestos under Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna in his 2011-12 Budget Speech. Is it sufficient to deal with a health crisis caused due to killer fibers of asbestos that is estimated to cause some 50,000 deaths every year?

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) had written to the Finance Minister seeking incentives for alternatives of asbestos. But since 1982, as a Finance Minister, Mukherjee has extended  the general scheme of excise duty concession to manufacturers of asbestos fibre and yarn.
Since then, asbestos industry remains the pet child of the congress party or maybe it is the other way round.

The upcoming fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN's Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (COP-5) to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 20 - 24 June 2011 will once again decide the fate of inclusion of chrysotile in the list of hazardous chemicals.

If Indian government opposes inclusion of Chrysotile asbestos in the PIC list even now, it would clearly mean that it is being anti-worker, anti-people and anti- science. While presenting the Union Budget (1995-96), Manmohan Singh, the then Union Minister of Finance too had expressed his support for the asbestos industry on 15th March, 1995 saying, "I am also proposing reduction in excise duty in certain areas of general consumption on asbestos fibres from 20% to 10% and on asbestos cement articles from 30% to 25%." Excise duty is a percentage tax levied on a company's revenue, instead of (like income tax) on the company's income.

The trend of making asbestos and its products artificially cheaper with the blessings of the ruling political party continues till today with the active support of Union Commerce Ministry and Union Finance Ministry, Environment Ministry's environmental clearance to asbestos factories even as Union Health Minister expresses his helplessness to ban use of cancer causing asbestos fiber in the parliament.

In order to address the continuing burden of diseases caused by exposure to asbestos, the ILO has developed international standards and guidelines to contribute to the elimination of asbestos-related diseases (ARD) worldwide. This is in pursuance of the ILO resolution of June 2006 seeking "elimination of the future use of asbestos and the identification and proper  management of asbestos currently in place" as "the most effective means to protect workers from asbestos exposure and to prevent future asbestos-related diseases and deaths".

According to WHO estimates, more than 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposures. One in every three deaths from occupational cancer is estimated to be caused by asbestos. The World
Health Assembly Resolution 58.22 of 2005 on cancer prevention urges Member States to pay special attention to cancers for which avoidable exposure is a factor, including exposure to chemicals at the workplace. With Resolution 60.26, the World Health Assembly requested WHO "to carry out a global campaign for the elimination of asbestos-related diseases ".

Aren't Governments of Quebec, Canada, India and Andhra Pradesh aware of it? Why are they pretending colossal ignorance about incurable diseases caused by exposure to asbestos fibers?

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India/National Alliance for Asbestos Free India, Mb: 9818089660, 07739308480,
Email: krishna2777@gmail.com
Blog: banasbestosindia.blogspot.com


Jeffrey asbestos mine gets $7.5 million from Quebec

Kevin Dougherty and Michelle Lalonde

Montreal Gazette

13 April 2011

QUEBEC - The Quebec government has approved the expansion of the Jeffrey asbestos mine in Asbestos, along with a $7.5-million economic diversification fund for the region.

"I told the promoter today that the government has given its agreement in principle to the reopening of the Jeffrey Mine," Industry Minister Clément Gignac said in a statement Wednesday.

"This still remains, however, conditional on the finalizing of financing arrangements," the minister added, calling this "an important step" toward making the project a reality and saying he hopes promoter Baljit Chadha completes his financial plan.

The money for economic diversification in the region, where asbestos mining has been the key employer, is in response to a request from elected officials who called for accelerating the pace of diversification.

Gignac said the diversification fund would be financed from revenues generated by the mine, but securing financial backing is "an unavoidable condition."

Chadha's Balcorp Ltd. has been buying chrysotile asbestos from the Jeffrey Mine in the town of Asbestos, about 150 kilometres northeast of Montreal, for the past 15 years. The company, an international trade and marketing firm with offices in Westmount, New Delhi and Mumbai, sells the fibre to about a dozen large cement manufacturers in India.

Chadha and his partners have been waiting for months for Gignac to announce whether his ministry will guarantee a $58-million loan required to expand the nearly exhausted open-pit mine into an underground operation.

Gignac aide Jolyane Pronovost explained the minister is now making that loan guarantee conditional on Chadha showing he has lined up the required $25 million in financing from his international consortium of investing partners.

"The government has decided to support the project to relaunch the mine, but now the promoter has to get his financing together by July 1st," in order to get the loan guarantee, Pronovost said.

Outcry from Quebec's scientific and medical leaders as well as the international anti-asbestos movement appealing to the government to stop exporting the deadly fibre seem to have made little impact on the minister's decision.

"All points of view were examined, all the pros and cons, as well as the unanimous position of the elected officials of the region," Pronovost said.

"Reopening the Jeffrey Mine will create 425 full-time jobs in Asbestos," the minister said.

"It is a golden opportunity for us to use the spinoff from this project to give a new breath to our economy," added Yvon Vallières, the Liberal MNA for Richmond riding.

According to Gignac, Balcorp Ltd. would contribute $1.5 million a year for five years, starting in 2015 for economic diversification projects in the region and research to develop new products.

Chadha could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

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