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    Restrictions on Discontinued Uses of Asbestos: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Promulgates Significant New Use Rule

    May 1, 2019

    The United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) in an April 25th Federal Register Notice promulgated a Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”) Significant New Use Rule (“SNUR”) applicable to asbestos. See 84 Fed. Reg. 17345.

    The SNUR is applicable to asbestos as defined in Section 202 (Title II) of TSCA which defines the substance as the:

    . . .asbestiform varieties of six fiber types – chrysotile (serpentine), crocidolite (riebeckite), amosite (cummingtonite-grunerite), anthophyllite, tremolite or actinolite.

    EPA states it is promulgating the rule to ensure that uses of asbestos cannot re-enter the marketplace without the agency’s review. It characterizes its action as “closing a loophole in the regulatory regime for asbestos.”

    EPA’s authority for taking such action is found in Section 5 (a)(2) of TSCA which authorizes the agency to determine that a use of a chemical substance is a “significant new use.” The federal agency can make such a determination by rule if it considers all relevant factors as addressed in the previously referenced statutory provision. Once it determines that a use of a chemical substance is a significant new use, TSCA requires persons to submit a Significant New Use Notice to EPA at least 90 days before they manufacture or process the chemical substance for that use.

    The restricted new uses addressed by the April 25th Federal Register Notice include manufacturing of asbestos (including importing) or processing for uses that are neither ongoing nor already prohibited under TSCA. EPA states that it has:

    . . .found no information indicating that the following uses are ongoing, and, therefore, the following uses are subject to this SNUR and cannot return to the marketplace without EPA review.

    The referenced substances include:

    • Adhesives, sealants, and roof and nonroof coatings;
    • arc chutes;
    • boater-add gaskets;
    • cement products;
    • extruded sealant tape and other tape;
    • filler for acetylene cylinders;
    • friction materials (with certain exceptions identified in Table 1);
    • high-grade electrical paper; millboard;
    • missile liner;
    • packings;
    • pipeline wrap;
    • reinforced plastics;
    • roofing felt;
    • separators in fuel cells and
    • batteries;
    • vinyl-asbestos floor tile;
    • woven products;
    • any other building material;
    • and any other use of asbestos that is neither ongoing nor already prohibited under TSCA.

    A copy of the Federal Register Notice can be found here.

    1800 miners trapped in South African mine

    May 1, 2019

    About 1800 workers are trapped at a Sibanye Gold platinum mine in South Africa after an accident halted operation of a shaft used to transport workers.

    The company is exploring options to bring the workers to the surface and could use an adjacent shaft if repairs to the Thembelani shaft take too long, said spokesman James Wellsted.

    It may take a couple of hours to complete work on the shaft and the company can’t say when the workers might be hoisted up, he said.
    Workers have congregated at pick-up points about 1.5 kilometres underground, he said.

    The incident may revive concerns about safety at Sibanye, which last year suffered a spike in fatal accidents at its gold mines.

    About 1000 workers were also trapped underground for more than a day at one of the producer’s operations in February 2018 after a storm damaged power supplies in the area.

    South African mines are some of the deepest in the world.

    Sibanye’s platinum-group metal operations have been a bright spot for the miner – and it’s biggest source of revenue – as the company struggled with a range of setbacks in gold, including a crippling five-month strike over wages.download

    More than 50 feared dead after landslide at Myanmar jade mine

    April 25, 2019

    More than 50 people were feared dead after a landslide in northern Myanmar engulfed jade miners while they were sleeping.

    The accident took place near Maw Wun Kalay village in Hpakant township at about 11:30pm local time (17:00 GMT) on 23 April 2019 when a mud-filter pond, situated in an old mining site, collapsed.

    A total of 54 staff from two private companies were buried under a mound of mining waste along with 40 machines and vehicles, said Tin Soe, a local official.

     

    Most of the victims were identified as internal migrant workers who scavenge jade or pieces of the precious stones left over from company mining operations.The area is mined by the Myanmar Thura Gems and Shwe Nagar Koe Kaung companies.

    Hpakant area is the centre of the country’s jade mining industry and produces some of the best-quality jade in the world.

     

    Fatal landslides in the area are common with victims often from impoverished ethnic communities looking for scraps left behind by big firms.

     

    Ninth Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention to Held 29 April-10 May 2019

    April 10, 2019

    The ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention (RC COP-9) will be held back to back with the fourteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (BC COP-14) and the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention (SC COP-9) from 29 April to 10 May 2019 at Geneva International Conference Centre (CICG), 17 rue de Varembé, Geneva in Switzerland. The theme of the meetings will be ” Clean Planet, Healthy People: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste”.

    China factory explosion; Seven Killed

    April 2, 2019

    The blast involved a container of scrap metal that exploded in the outdoor yard of a metal-molding plant in a bonded area in the city of Kunshan, causing the plant to catch fire, the local government said on its official Weibo account on Sunday.

    “The cause of the incident is being investigated,” it said. Five people were also injured, one severely, in the blast.

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