MAC: Mines and Communities

Another possible cancer link to Rio Tinto

Published by MAC on 2007-01-12

Another possible cancer link to Rio Tinto

12th January 2007

Another alarum was raised this month about possible cancers deriving from condtions at a Rio Tinto mine.

Last November, an Australian report suggested that cancer rates were double the norm among Aboriginal people at the company's Ranger uranium mine. [see:]

Now, the United Steelworkers of America trade union is calling for an investigation of rare cancers among workers at Rio Tinto's 59%-owned iron ore mine in Labrador.

Probe cancer incidence at iron ore mine: union

CBC News

10th January 2007

A union representing workers at a Labrador mine is calling for an investigation into a rash of recent cancer diagnoses.

The United Steelworkers want experts to review cases involving workers at the Iron Ore Company of Canada mine in Labrador City, where five diagnoses have been made within the last four months.

One of them, Kevin Kent, believes his diagnosis may be related to his almost 30-year career with IOC.

"I have cancer, a rare type of cancer behind my lung, I was told by my oncologist. He's written a letter saying it could very well be work-related," said Kent, who is on sick leave.

George Kean, president of the United Steelworkers local, said the recent diagnoses are enough to warrant professional scrutiny.

"I don't know if these cancers are work-related, but I want help from the government and from specialists to come in and investigate and decide the cause of the cancers, if they are work-related, and make sure they get the benefits they are entitled to," Kean told CBC News.

Linking cancer prevalence to industrial exposure is difficult. Workers often have problems obtaining workers' compensation benefits.

Kean wants the Newfoundland and Labrador government to hire an industrial disease specialist to determine if the illnesses are work-related.

Joan Kuyek, national co-ordinator with the advocacy group Mining Watch Canada, said that approach is sensible.

"It would mean that somebody was required to really look at these diseases, and to make sure that people who get cancers and so on from the workplace are compensated," she said.

Officials with the Workplace, Health, Safety and Compensation Commission have said they are willing to meet with the Steelworkers union on the matter.

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