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Environmental, labour & health groups denounce India-Canada Trade Agreement

by Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), 27 November 2010

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Press Release

Environmental, labour & health groups denounce India-Canada Trade Agreement

Stop Revival & Expansion of Canadian Asbestos Mines

BANI Appreciates Canadian Journal of Public Health

New Delhi/ 25/11/2010: Instead of immediately banning the import of potentially deadly asbestos, the proposed free trade agreement between India and Canada will boost asbestos trade. In such a backdrop, talks on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the two countries is quite sad and disturbing and has been denounced by the environmental, labour & health groups. The groups demanded that ban asbestos trade must be deemed a pre-condition for future negotiations on CEPA.

On November 16, Canadian Minister of International Trade Peter Van Loan opened formal talks with Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma on a strategic economic partnership between the two countries.

Despite Canada’s leadership in medical care and technology, it is an act of violation when an advanced country that strictly regulates the use of asbestos within its own borders, exports asbestos in India and around the world. Admittedly, India lacks the expertise to monitor and treat incurable illnesses that results from inhaling asbestos fibers.

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) expresses its support and solidarity with the protest from health and environmental groups against an attempt by Indian and other investors to revive a big Canadian asbestos mine. Jeffrey and one other remaining mine in the Quebec province of Canada produce chrysotile, or white asbestos, used mainly to reinforce cement used for water pipes and other building materials. Exposure to asbestos fibers causes incurable and fatal lung diseases. In India there is a ban on asbestos mining but trade, manufacture and use of asbestos products is yet to be banned. There is a ban on trade in asbestos waste as well.

The identity of the Quebec leader of the anonymous consortium of investors, who have offered to buy the Jeffrey mine for $15 million, on condition that the Quebec government gives them $58 million financing was hidden for quite a while now it is now known.

These prospective buyers of the mine are led by Baljit Chadha, a Montreal-based financier of Indian mineral extraction. The group also includes investors based in India, Financial Times reported on 24 November, 2010.

BANI condemns the naked lust of this consortium for profit and its criminal disregard for the disastrous heath consequences.

Environmental, labour and health groups are opposed to the approval of C$58 million ($57 million) in loan guarantees needed to convert the Jeffrey mine from an open-pit to an underground operation. They are urging the Quebec government not to approve the loan. The open-pit reserves are almost exhausted but the deeper deposits are among the biggest in the world.

Canada is the world’s fifth-biggest asbestos producer after Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Brazil. India is one of the biggest consumers of cancer causing asbestos fibers from Quebec, Canada. Revival and expansion of the mine would boost asbestos production from the 100-year-old mine from an estimated 15,000 tonnes this year to 180,000 tonnes in 2012 and an eventual capacity of 260,000 tonnes, or about 10 per cent of global production.

BANI expresses its deep sense of appreciation for an extremely powerful editorial by Prof. Gilles Paradis in the Canadian Journal of Public Health calling on Quebec’s public health organisations to stop the Jeffrey mine and to demand a ban on the mining and export of chrysotile asbestos. Indeed Canada’s export of asbestos to developing countries like India is a racist policy. Prof. Paradis observes, “"There is an ethical imperative for Public Health Organizations and professionals, and in particular for Quebec’s public health leaders, to become more vocal and active in the fight against chrysotile asbestos and to unite behind a common goal of banning production and export of all asbestos." (Editorial attached)

It is high time Indian public health organisations and journals took note of it as well and vocally endorsed the call for immediate ban on asbestos of all kinds including chrysotile asbestos.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), Mb: 98180989660
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