MAC: Mines and Communities

Us Update

Published by MAC on 2006-02-20

US Update

20th February 2006

The US Senate has rejected - by one vote - the Asbestos Bill, presented last year in an attempt to "cap" corporate liabilities for one of the worst minerals-related diseases. Although the Bill may be re-presented later this year, it's more likely to have sunk without trace.

The proposal divided political parties, trade unions, veterans, and businesses, although the Democratic party, mineworkers and environmentalists largely opposed it.

The biggest public relations "guns" were aimed by suporters of the Bill, notably Dow Chemical. While flagrantly refusing to settle claims by victims of the Bhopal conflagration in India, Dow has doled out at least US$3.6 million to lobbyists to apply pressure in favour of the bill.

Some of the lesser-known victims of asbestosis - as well as lead and mercury poisoning -are those employed to clear up the appalling detritus from the Twin Towers disaster of September 11 2001. Eighteen months after the first suit mounted for compensation, many are now suffering from fatal - and preventable - diseases

Under the Bush regime, only 12 mining violations have attracted maximum fines (US$60,000), in contrast to six times this number during the previous half dozen years under Clinton.

It's also been revealed that International Coal was exposing its workers to illegal levels of coal dust, just weeks before its Sago mine became the site of the worst US coal disaster since 2001. The company was fined less than US$300 for this offence. Now, there are proposals to increase fines for mining companies which put their own employees at risk, though it's arguably too little and too late.

The Navajo (Dine) Nation has re-affirmed its opposition to uranium mining, however high the price rises.

In Kentucky, legislators are sitting on top of a bill designed to slow down the destructive practice of "mountaintop mining."

After a failure to push through legislation opening US public lands to mining, the Bush regime is working in a similar direction using slightly different tactics.

A legal challenge to a proposed tyre incinerator in the US state of Vermont could have repercussions elsewhere - particularly for cement manufacturers which are the largest single industrial burner of tyres. But, meanwhile the US government's EPA continues to endorse the practice.

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