Miners’ high health risks prompts review in Sweden

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The Work Environment Authority in Sweden says too few mining companies test the air inside their mines. (iStock)
The Work Environment Authority in Sweden says too few mining companies test the air inside their mines. (iStock)
Miners in Sweden face a significant health risk from inhaling dangerous particles while at work, Swedish Radio News reports, prompting a government review of the industry’s workplace air quality.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority said its investigation will make sure companies are doing what they can to keep dust, which can contain hazardous quartz particles and asbestos, and exhaust fumes from equipment to a minimum inside their mining operations.

Miners are at greater risk than others for lung cancer and about 120 people die each year in Sweden from aggressive cancer linked to asbestos exposure.

Problem ‘underestimated’

Bo Olofsson, a professor of environmental geology at Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology, tells Swedish Radio that he is not surprised but the higher risks miners face. He said the industry has underestimated the seriousness of the problem for some time.

“Asbestos is found in some rocks, and those rocks can contain minerals,” he said. “And it’s difficult to extract the ore without releasing the asbestos. It is a dilemma you have.”

The Work Environment Authority said right now too few mining companies test the air inside their mines and those that do measure the air quality only do so because of their own internal rules.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Canadian province of Quebec announces plan for northern development, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Finland to sink 112m euros into Talvivaara mining, Yle News

Sweden: Relocation of Arctic town underway in Sweden, Radio Sweden

Norway: Production uncertain beyond Q2 at iron-ore mine in Arctic Norway, Barents Observer

Sweden:  Swedish ore production record in 2014, Barents Observer

United States:  Alaska – Judge temporarily halts EPA process on Pebble Mine, Alaska Dispatch

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Radio Sweden

Radio Sweden

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