Global asbestos export declined by 27% in 2013

Wed, Sep 17, 2014

1 Comment

Kathleen Ruff, RightOnCanada

The bad news is that world asbestos production continues at around 2 million metric tons a year, having, in fact, risen by 2.4% from 1,987,800 tons in 2012 to 2,034,700 tons in 2013, according to US Geological Survey (USGS) estimates.

The good news is that asbestos-producing countries are apparently having a harder time exporting their deadly product. Export of asbestos in 2013 dropped by 27% from 1,327,592 metric tons in 2012 to 974,871 tons in 2012.

Russia, the world’s biggest asbestos producer, has in particular experienced a dramatic drop of 27% in its asbestos sales overseas. As a result, Russia’s own domestic consumption of asbestos appears to have skyrocketed from 155 thousand tons in 2012 to 432 thousand tons in 2013. This almost tripling of Russia’s consumption of its own asbestos may, however, be misleading and Russia may, in fact, be stockpiling large amounts of asbestos that it is unable to sell.

An indication that Russia is experiencing difficulties in selling its asbestos and its asbestos products is the fact that in 2013 the Economic Development and Trade Ministry of Ukraine decided to prolong antidumping duties on imports of asbestos-cement corrugated sheets from Russia for an additional five years.

 

Asbestos exporters are experiencing declining sales

Just four countries – Russia, China, Brazil and Kazakhstan – produced 99.9% of the world’s asbestos in 2013. All four countries experienced a significant drop in export sales in 2013 (see table below).

China is an anomaly in that it not only mines asbestos but also imports asbestos. In 2013, China mined 420,000 tons of asbestos, imported 202,866 tons and exported 52,860 tons. So China’s export of asbestos may, in fact, be transmission of asbestos it has imported, rather than sale of its own asbestos.

Asbestos Export in 2012 and 2013

Country

Asbestos export 2012

Asbestos export 2013

% change from 2012

Russia

844,823

618,037

-27%

Kazakhstan

235,935

175,235

-26%

Brazil

150,829

125,832

-17%

China

69,422

52,860

-24%

World Asbestos Consumption in 2013

 

Just five countries – China, Russia, India, Brazil and Indonesia – consumed 1,486,207 metric tons of asbestos in 2013, 74% of the world total.

While the asbestos industry likes to claim that asbestos is being widely used in over a hundred countries, in fact, just ten countries accounted for 93% of world asbestos consumption in 2013 (see chart below).

 

Significant Decline in Asbestos Consumption in Asia

The 2013 USGS figures seem to show a massive increase in asbestos consumption in Asia. This is not the case. The reason for the apparent increase is that the 2013 USGS data now includes Eastern Europe with Asia and therefore, for the first time, includes countries, such as Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. In 2012 these countries were listed under Europe. The new region comprising Asia and Eastern Europe consumed 1,828,142 tons of asbestos in 2013, which is a shocking 87%% of global asbestos consumption.

The good news, however, is that in the countries included under Asia in 2012, asbestos consumption has, in fact, declined by 119,994 tons – a significant 22% drop.

In India, the world’s biggest asbestos importer, consumption of asbestos dropped by a huge 39% from 2012 to 2013. Asbestos consumption also fell in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Thailand, as well as in countries outside Asia, such as Mexico, Colombia, Cuba and Ghana.

Sadly, in some countries, such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Bangladesh, asbestos consumption increased, as shown in the chart below.

Change in Asbestos Consumption from 2012 to 2013


Country

Asbestos consumption 2012

Asbestos consumption 2013

% change from 2012

China

 530,834

570,006

+7%

Russia

155,476

432,365

+178%

India

493,086

302,668

-39%

Brazil

167,602

181,168

+8%

Indonesia

161,824

156,050

-4%

Uzbekistan

103,608

81,380

-21%

Kazakhstan

5,290

66,801

+1,163%

Vietnam

78,909

57,123

-27%

Thailand

58,008

53,123

-8%

Turkmenistan

6,694

52,983

+691%

Ukraine

42,000

35,015

-17%

Sri Lanka

54,704

22,953

-58%

Colombia

25,164

15,961

-37%

Bangladesh

2,232

8,031

+260%

Malaysia

2,350

6,511

+177%

Mexico

17,020

7,144

-58%

Pakistan

10,054

6,315

-37%

Cuba

10,329

4,770

-54%

Philippines

1,970

2,651

+35%

Ghana

2,041

821

-149%

USA

1,560

745

-52%

 

The asbestos industry in Russia, Kazakhstan and Brazil is determined to use every means possible to increase its export of asbestos in the coming years, regardless of the human and economic costs that this will cause in the countries importing it.

Tactics employed by the world asbestos industry and its lobby organisations are to fund scientists to promote asbestos use; to influence politicians in asbestos-importing countries; to seek to infiltrate and influence organisations, such as the International Agency for Research on Cancer; to sabotage the U.N. Rotterdam Convention so as to be able to export asbestos without disclosing its health hazards; and to exert pressure on the World Health Organization in an attempt to silence the call by the WHO for an end to any use of asbestos anywhere in the world.

It is critical that the efforts of the asbestos industry to protect its profits be defeated and that its overseas sales continue to decline, resulting in the long overdue demise of this deadly industry.

 

 

 

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