Chrysotile Production: Contradictory Developments Signal Industry Confusion 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



At the same time as the last chrysotile mine in South Africa was closing down, production at a Kazakhstan facility was expanding. All operations at the Msauli Chrysotile Asbestos Mine and Mill in the Transvaal ceased on September 14, 2001. The same day the Kustanayasbest Asbestos Mining and Concentration Plaint in Almaty, Kazakhstan issued a press release announcing plans to "extract, process and sell 200,000 tonnes of asbestos in 2001, which exceeds the five-year development plan by 10,000 tonnes." The statement predicted an increase in worldwide demand for asbestos-containing construction materials. If the company’s objectives are achieved, production levels will have doubled in four years from 109,000 tonnes in 1999 to 225,000 tonnes in 2003.

Information obtained from Natural Resources Canada is more guarded about the international prospects of the asbestos industry. Production and trade data are the basis for their 1998 analysis which concluded that: "worldwide consumption will remain low compared to recent years… (but) should increase by 3-5% in 1999... However, signs of a recovery in Thailand at the end of 1998 may indicate a gradual resumption in demand in Asian countries in 1999, especially in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and South Korea." The importance of markets in Japan, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America was stressed. Marketing efforts included trade missions to Colombia, Mexico, Cuba and Panama, regional programs for Latin America organised by the Asbestos International Association and The Third Conference of Mining Ministries of the Americas held in Buenos Aires, Argentina (1998). Steps taken to protect markets in the medium term include "the aggressive introduction of new chrysotile-containing products to address current health concerns." There are no long range predictions.


September 19, 2001



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