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21 Brazil: Asbestos Producer, User, Exporter (December 4, 2012)

The top ten importers of Brazilian asbestos were: India (1), Indonesia (2), Mexico (3; 7%), Thailand (4), Malaysia (5), Colombia (6; 3%), South Africa (7; 3%), Bolivia (8; 3%), Ecuador (9; 3%) Angola (10; 2%).

22 Asbestos in Colombia (October 3, 2012)

Versión en Español

During the period 2008-2011, Colombia imported an average of 8,290 tonnes of asbestos a year. A brief look at the import data raises some uncomfortable questions as indications are that the use of asbestos, an acknowledged carcinogen, is increasing.

Eternit Colombiana S.A., Eternit Pacifico S.A., and Eternit Atlántico S.A. own asbestos processing factories in Bogota, Cali and Barranquilla; some of these facilities have been operational since the 1940s.

Other asbestos-using companies in Colombia include Tecnología en Cubrimiento S.A., Incolbestos and Repuestos Colombianos S.A.

Whereas Argentina, Chile, Honduras and many states in Brazil have banned asbestos, Colombia seems to be going its own way. Now, there is even talk of reviving a mothballed and bankrupt asbestos mine “Las Brisas,” with a report in “El Colombiano,” the main newspaper in Medellin, stating that the facility has been sold to local investors who hope to recommence production soon.1 The people from the village of La Solita Camp, where the mine is located, called this news “a miracle.” When “Las Brisas” was closed in 2011, after forty years of mining, 250 mineworkers lost their jobs.

According to a media release there are more than 2 million tonnes of asbestos at the mine; with monthly production of 1,500 tonnes, the reserves could last for 30 years and satisfy half of Colombia's demand for asbestos. In neither the press release nor the articles found is there any mention that 55 countries around the world have banned the use of asbestos due to its toxic nature. In Colombia, industry lobbyists continue to disseminate asbestos propaganda without opposition from the government, the environmental lobby or trade unions. Comments made in a 2012 article in “El Espectador,” Colombia's second most popular newspaper, are informative.2 The journalist reported that as a result of “rigorous” research conducted “by leading authorities in environmental medicine,” chrysotile asbestos [the type mined and used in Colombia] is not considered to be carcinogenic. Therefore, the journalist concludes, the commercial exploitation of Las Brisas mine is an “attractive” and safe proposition. Even though the Andean Community, of which Colombia has been a member since 1969, highlighted the asbestos hazard in 2005,3 it seems that the asbestos debate has not yet begun in Colombia.

23 Asbestos en Colombia (October 10, 2012)

English version

Durante el periodo 2008 – 2011 Colombia importó un promedio de 8.920 toneladas de asbesto por año. Una rápida mirada sobre los indicadores de las importaciones plantea unas preguntas incómodas a medida que el uso del asbesto – un reconocido mineral cancerígeno – va en aumento.

Eternit Colombiana S.A., Eternit Pacifico S.A., y Eternit Atlántico S.A. poseen fábricas propias para el procesamiento de asbesto, algunas de estas instalaciones han estado en funcionamiento desde 1940.

Otras empresas que utilizan asbesto en Colombia son Tecnología en Cubrimiento S.A., Incolbestos y Repuestos Colombianos S.A.

Mientras Argentina, Chile, Honduras y muchos estados en Brasil han prohibido el uso del asbesto, Colombia parece seguir su propio camino. En este momento incluso, se habla de revivir la minera “las Brisas”, paralizada y en bancarrota de acuerdo a una información publicada en “El Colombiano”, el principal periódico de Medellín, señalando que las instalaciones fueron vendidas a unos inversionistas locales que esperan reiniciar la producción muy pronto.1

De acuerdo a un comunicado de prensa, existen más de dos millones de toneladas de asbesto en la mina; con una producción mensual de 1.500 toneladas las reservas podrían durar 30 años y satisfacer la mitad de la demanda anual de asbestos en Colombia. Ni en los comunicados de prensa ni en los artículos consultados aparece mención alguna al hecho de que 55 países alrededor del mundo han prohibido el uso del asbesto debido a su naturaleza tóxica.

En Colombia, el lobby de esta industria continúa difundiendo información a favor del asbesto sin ningún tipo de oposición por parte del gobierno, los grupos ambientales o los sindicatos.

Una información aparecida en “El Espectador”, el segundo periódico en importancia en Colombia, es elocuente de esta situación.2 En una nota publicada el 20 de febrero del año 2012 el periodista reporta que estudios “sometidos por destacadas autoridades en medicina ambiental a los más rigurosos estudios” demuestran que “el asbesto tipo crisotilo (el cual corresponde al de la minera “las Brisas”) no tiene efectos cancerígenos”.

A pesar de que por medio de la comunidad Andina, a la cual Colombia pertenece desde 1969, se puso de relieve los peligros del asbesto en el año 2005,3 pareciera que el debate sobre el asbesto aún no ha empezado en Colombia.

24 The Rise and Fall of the Chrysotile Institute (May 1, 2012)

It is not coincidental that asbestos use continues in India, Thailand, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, countries where these organizations exist. The CI's mothballed website boasts that the Institute has participated in “activities intended to promote the controlled use of chrysotile (asbestos)” in more than 60 countries on five continents.

25 Making Waves and Noise in Turin (July 18, 2011)

Italian journalist Silvana Mossano described the knock-on effects of the trial well when she wrote: “the 'noise' the Eternit owners fear so much as they try to keep the matter 'local' is spreading internationally.”2 A film “Dust – The Great Asbestos Trial,” by Italian documentary makers Niccolò Bruna and Andrea Prandstraller is now making the rounds of film festivals and is due to be transmitted on European TV stations this Autumn.3 In Latin America, Colombian director Andres Lozano is working on a documentary about Eternit in his country; scenes already filmed include interviews with Eternit workers from the company's factory in Barranquilla, near Cartagena.

26 Further Support for Asbestos Bans (July 7, 2010)

1 Estimates put the population of the 4 MERCOSUR member states, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, at 242+ million. Associate members include: Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

27 Substitutes for Asbestos-Cement Construction Products (October 13, 2009)

Kuraray, Japan – manufacturer of PVA fiber used to make fiber-cement by companies in countries including Ukraine, Nigeria, Turkey, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil. http://www.kuraray.co.jp/en/products/vinylon.

28 The Rotterdam Convention: Fighting for its Life (March 20, 2008)

3 In 2003, the countries which backed the Canadian opposition to the listing of chrysotile as a dangerous substance were: Russia, India, Ukraine, China, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, South Africa and Colombia.

4 A chronological record of the 2004 COP1 chrysotile debate shows opposition to chrysotile PIC listing from convention members: Canada, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan; Russia, India, China, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Colombia, Zimbabwe, which were not members but attended as observers, also opposed the listing.

29 Unionists Back Asbestos Ban (February 25, 2007)

Trade unions in Latin America were at the forefront of national campaigns to ban asbestos in Chile and Argentina; now similar action is being taken by trade unionists from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela who are mobilizing the Andean Community1 to tackle the region's asbestos problem.

no one knows how many workers are exposed to asbestos or how many people have occupationally contracted asbestos-related diseases; even though 3 of the Andean countries have ratified ILO Convention 162 (Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador), there is no enforcement of the Convention;

accurate figures for national consumption are unavailable but it is estimated that in 2004, Venezuela and Peru imported 4,000 t and 4,600 t respectively; in 2005, Colombia imported 19,000 t of Canadian asbestos. Figures for Ecuador and Bolivia are unobtainable;

national subsidiaries of the European multinational, Etex, operate in Colombia and Peru under the name of Eternit; Eternit is also in Ecuador;

while the Governments of Venezuela and Peru are considering the feasibility of banning asbestos, the Governments of Colombia and Bolivia are opposed to such action. The Government of Ecuador is undecided.

1 The Andean Community is a trade bloc representing the interests of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

30 Retrograde Step by Government of Peru (January 4, 2007)

This is a retrograde step by a government which two years ago was actively considering plans to prohibit the use of all types of asbestos. In addition, Peru is a member of the Andean Community, a trade bloc consisting of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, which is supposedly considering the feasibility of a regional asbestos ban, having been recommended to take such a step in 2005 by its Employment Advisory Committee.

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