Chris Nardi: Thailand’s move to ban asbestos leaves Quebec looking foolish – by Christopher Nardi (National Post – July 26, 2012)posted in Asbestos, Canadian/International Media Resource Articles |
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Ever wonder what it feels like to loan $58-million to an industry whose biggest clients don’t even want your product and are actively working to ban it? If so, then look no further than Jean Charest for a prime example of an ill-advised investment. Last June, the Quebec Liberals announced a $58-million loan to Mineral Fiber, the company that owns Jeffrey Mine, in order to resuscitate the (rightfully) dead asbestos industry.
Nearly all the mine’s clients are developing countries, with Thailand, India and China representing the core of its business, and the core of its funding. Apart from Quebec’s loan, $11-million was invested by Baljit Chadha, leader of the Sikh community in Canada and co-owner of the mine, and $14-million was invested by a Thai company, Ulan Marketing. Ulan Marketing is part of a family of companies in Thailand known as Oran Vanich Co., which is the largest producer of construction products using asbestos in Thailand, with five plants and over 1,000 employees.
Surprisingly, La Presse is now reporting that Thai authorities are actively trying to ban chrysotile asbestos imports within the next few months. In January 2011, Thailand’s National Economic and Social Advisory Council recommended banning imports and sales of asbestos in Thailand due to its link to health problems, including cancer. A month later, Thai authorities adopted a resolution to ban the material from the country. The resolution was proposed by the National Health Commission of Thailand, chaired by the Prime Minister. The package of measures will be presented this September, according to the commission’s website.
Of course, with such a significant investment in Jeffrey Mine, Ulan Marketing won’t allow the ban without a fight. The organization has publicly questioned the danger of asbestos, such as in August 2011, when Oran Vanich’s CEO, Kriewsakul Uran said that the roof tiles being manufactured with asbestos in Thailand “pose no health risk.” During a public forum on the subject two weeks ago, he added: “Only 55 of 194 member states of the World Health Organization have stopped the use and so far it has not been proved that asbestos causes death. If Thailand ends it, that will be tantamount to executing the innocent.”
Despite the grisly warning, Thai authorities seem adamant on getting a ban. And why shouldn’t they? Asbestos use has met opposition from key health associations, such as the World Health Organization, the World Federation of Public Health Associations, the International Commission on Occupational Health and the World Bank.
For the rest of this article, please go to the National Post website: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/07/26/chris-nardi-thailands-move-to-ban-asbestos-leaves-quebec-looking-foolish/#more-86018