Zimbabwe may revive asbestos mines

According to China’s Xinhua News Agency, operations at two asbestos mines in the African country of Zimbabwe may be revived.  The mines are located in Shabanie (now called Zvishavane) and Mashava, says the article, both in the southern-central portion of the country where natural asbestos deposits are found. The Zimbabwean government recently acquired the mines from SMM Holdings Limited administrator Afaras Gwaradzimba, who had controlled them since his appointment to the position in 2004, says Xinhua.  According to the news agency, the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation will soon begin creating a plan to renew production at the mines.  The plan is backed by the government, particularly Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Gift Chimanikire, says the article. Xinhua reports that reopening the mines will take approximately 200 million U.S. dollars.  At the peak of their production, says the article, the Shabanie and Mashava mines used to produce a combined total of 180,000 tons of asbestos a year.  At the time, according to this report, much of this asbestos was exported to South Africa, a country which has since banned the use of the toxic mineral. Though many European countries have also banned asbestos within their borders, Brazil, Russia, India, and China continue to support the mining and use of the substance, says the news agency.  According to the most recent U.S. Geological Survey numbers, these are the world’s largest users of asbestos, with Russia mining more than 1,000,000 tons a year.  If the Shabanie and Mashava mines revive to full production, they will be the world’s fourth largest producer of the substance, behind Kazakhstan but before Canada, according to the USGS. However, Xinhua reports that the asbestos may be largely used within the borders of Zimbabwe to the tune of $2 billion a year.  While other Zimbabwean mining industries have grown over the past two years, says the news agency, the asbestos industry is one of the few that has not, and much of the mineral is being imported from Russia and Brazil. This movement to revitalize the mines has not been without controversy, however.  Richard Clapp of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) reminds readers of the protests in 1974 to ban the U.S. import of asbestos from Zimbabwe (known then as Rhodesia) and draws parallel’s with Canada’s recent attempts to revive asbestos mining.  The ADAO has drafted a letter to the Zimbabwean government, says Clapp, urging officials to abandon “these backward steps” and instead move forward with efforts to ban the mineral worldwide. References: Clapp, Richard. (2011). “No more killings and asbestos in Zimbabwe.” Retrieved May 10, 2011 from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. Virta, Robert L. (January 2011). “Mineral Commodity Summaries: Asbestos.” Retrieved May 10, 2011 from the U.S. Geological Survey. Zhi, Chen. (April 27, 2011). “Zimbabwe in bid to revive asbestos mines.” Retrieved May 10, 2011 from Xinhua News Agency. Previous: Several CSUN Buildings Impacted By Asbestos Next: Rare Disease Day 2012 Highlights the Power of Solidarity