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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.

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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.

Occupational Exposure

Much of the Asarco asbestos exposure happened at the company‚Äôs 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:

  • Miners
  • Pipefitters
  • Factory Workers
  • Truck Drivers
  • Machinists
  • Laborers
  • Supervisors
  • Smelters

How Was The Trust Formed?

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.

Asarco’s Use of Asbestos

The two largest Asarco-owned businesses are known for their abundant use of asbestos:

  • Black Lake – Also known as Lake Asbestos Quebec or LAQ, this tremendous open-pit mine supplied massive amounts of asbestos to the US. LAQ was created when Asarco realized the potential to get asbestos from the lake bottom, the company drained the lake and created a mining pit. Workers removed raw asbestos fibers for use in manufacturing.
  • CAPCO (Cement Asbestos Products Company) – This company, an Asarco subsidiary, manufactured underground cement pipe products that used asbestos as a binding agent. The pipes themselves were a made from a mixture of asbestos, silica and cement.

Asbestos Products

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:

  • Limpet – Armstrong’s Limpet spray insulation, which was commonly known as flock insulation, was used from 1960 to 1973 and was completely made from asbestos. It was removed from the market because it was vulnerable to impact damage and water penetration.
  • Insulation Board – Used as a standard fire, heat and acoustic insulation, the insulation boards contained between 25 and 40 percent asbestos fiber. These boards were vulnerable to impact damage and deterioration.
  • Vinyl Flooring – Asbestos was also used as an insulator in these tiles. They are known to become brittle and break.

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