ASARCO mines, smelts and refines copper in the United States. It previously used asbestos in several of its operations. The two biggest ways were through the production of asbestos cement pipes and its open-pit asbestos mine in Canada. Through its subsidiary CAPCO, the company produced miles of asbestos-laden pipes. According to a comprehensive asbestos survey completed at the Asarco plant in Texas, asbestos was found throughout the plant that once held hundreds of Asarco employees.
With its roots in smelting and refining, Asarco is a large-scale producer of copper, lead, alloys and other metals.The company began in 1889 with the name the American Smelting and Refining Company. Today, Asarco, an acronym, produces about 375 million pounds of metals from mines across the southwest United States.
The American Smelting and Refining Company started when existing metal mines in Mexico and Colorado merged. In the years that followed, the company purchased mines across Arizona, Texas, Mexico and South America. The American Smelting and Refining Company changed its name to Asarco in 1975. The company was purchased by Grupo Mexico, a mining firm, in 1999.
Much of the Asarco asbestos exposure happened at the company’s plants that are scattered throughout the Midwest and the company’s asbestos mine in Canada. The following jobs were considered high risk for asbestos exposure:
Facing more than 100,000 lawsuits for asbestos claims, Asarco filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late 2000. The company’s reorganization plan was approved in 2009 and a trust was formed to handle the claims. The Asarco Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust started accepting claims in 2010.
In addition to the personal-injury claims, several local and state governments have sued Asarco for environmental damages. The company is responsible for 20 Environmental Protection Agency Superfund sites across the US. Overall, the trust’s initial payment percentage was 22 percent for many claims. The scheduled value for mesothelioma is $170,000. In March 2014, the trustees agreed to allow any claim for mesothelioma to be awarded up to six times the scheduled value.
The two largest Asarco-owned businesses are known for their abundant use of asbestos:
From floor to ceiling, there were dozens of materials that used asbestos. While most of these products are no longer on the market, some of Armstrong’s products still contain asbestos. Government regulations allow some asbestos to be used in some products still. Armstrong World Industry used the following products that contained asbestos:
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