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Asbestos miners in Cyprus threaten to sue Danish company
FLSmidth, a global engineering firm based in Copenhagen, is being accused of the deaths of hundreds of Cypriot miners who worked at an asbestos mine the company used to own and run.
The allegations were made in a documentary, ‘Den Danske Dødsmine’ (The Danish Deathmine) that was broadcast Monday night on DR1 in which the film crew visited former workers of the Amiandos mine who now suffer from asbestos-related cancers.
The relatives of those who have died are now threatening to sue FLSmidth for allowing the miners to work without any protection in full knowledge that asbestos can be lethal to breathe in.
“The Cypriot government needs to make contact with the Danish company, as FLSmidth has to pay for the many lives that they have destroyed in Cyprus,” George Perdikes, MP for the Cyprus Green Party, said according to DR. “There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who have died because of the mine.”
The documentary crew met many former miners who now suffer from asbestos-related diseases who blame FLSmidth for not informing them of the dangers of working in the mine.
“They told us nothing about the danger from asbestos,” former miner Giannis Vrontis said. “If they had told us, I would have never worked in the mine.”
Cypriot authorities have no exact figures on how many people have died as a result of the mine, as many asbestos deaths caused by lung cancer were formerly classified as pneumonia.
But a lung surgeon speaking to the filmmakers confirmed treating a number of patients for cancers that could only have been caused by exposure to asbestos.
FLSmidth’s CEO Bjarne Moltke denied that the company is responsible for any compensation claims, stating that any responsibility was handed over to the new owner when they sold the mine in 1986.
A document from a 1971 conference of asbestos employers, released by DR, reveals that asbestos companies were well aware of the damage to health that asbestos caused.
In another document from 1969, the CEO of company Dansk Eternit Fabrik, then owned by FLSmidth, admits to knowing of the damage caused by asbestos. The document enabled Danish asbestos workers to successfully sue Dansk Eternit Fabrik for damages in 1989.
- - CORRECTIONS - - This story was updated on 22 March 2012 to reflect the fact that the Cypriot miners at this point are only threatening to sue FLSmidth, and that Danish asbestos workers sued Dansk Eternit Fabrik, a then-subsidiary of FLSmidth, in 1989 rather than FLSmidth itself. The Copenhagen Post regrets the errors.