Mining For Asbestos

Asbestos is a silicate mineral that is now synonymous with a variety of lung problems, including mesothelioma. It rose to fame due to it's heat resistance, insulating properties, strength, and flexibility, among other things. Because we now know the proper way to treat and handle asbestos, it is still commonly used for use in the construction industry.

Asbestos is a silicate mineral that comes in six different types of fibers, which are divided into two groups: serpentines and amphiboles. The only fiber type in the serpentine group is chrysotile, while the amphibole family includes anthophyllite, grunerite or amosite, ryebeckite or crocidolite, tremolite, and actinolite. The main characteristic of abestiform fibers is that they can be cleaved into thin flexible fibers with a high length to diameter ratio. Additionally, they have high tensile strength and are easily spun into thicker bundles.

Asbestos has been recognized and utilized since as early as the ancient Greeks. Persia and China were also probably exposed to the material as well. Now, the main producers of this mineral include Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Canada, and Brazil. This led the mining of 2.3 million tonnes of the substance produced worldwide in 2006. In North America, some of the first asbestos mines appeared in the Appalachian region of Quebec in 1879.

The main commercially mined asbestos fibers is chrysotile. It is found in serpentine rocks, serpentinized ultramafic rocks, and in serpentinized dolomitic marbles through the world. Most locations use open pit mining to remove the fibers from rock in strands about 1-3cm long on average. After the topsoil is removed, the rock is blasted open until the miners reach the layer of asbestos. Machines are then used to strip away the minerals needed. When it is first mined, asbestos appears as an almost-greasy substance that is surprisingly soft. This is because it easily falls apart into small strings.

Because less-developed countries do not have as strong as regulation controls on the mining of asbestos, miners there are at risk for developing lung problems that go along with exposure to the mineral. Asbestos easily flakes into small pieces that can be inhaled and lodged into the lungs. Thus, this silicate material has now been classified as a carcinogen to humans. It contributes to lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Also, some studies have found links between asbestos exposure and the following cancers:


Asbestos miners are not the only people at risk for developing the above cancers. People who homes are insulated with improperly treated asbestos can also develop these problems. If you or someone you know has contracted mesothelioma, you may be entitled to financial compensation. For more information regarding this disease and personal injury law, check out the mesothelioma lawyers at Williams Kherkher today.

Source by Joseph Devine

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