Were mining and manufacturing companies, as they claimed, the victims of imperfect science and inadequate state regulation?
Since the 1930s growing evidence of the health risks was often suppressed by companies and the South African government.
Is enough being done to clean up the environmental damage caused by the mines?
Large areas of the northern Cape have been made permanently hazardous by asbestos mining. Windborne fibre continues to spread that hazard in an ever widening circle of risk. During 2001 the South African government allocated R100 million to clean up un-reclaimed mines, but far more will be necessary to make the landscape itself safe.
Should British companies be held responsible for the behaviour of their South African subsidiaries?
The prosperity of the asbestos industry in South Africa depended on apartheid. Company profits and the dividends paid to British shareholders were fuelled by the lowly paid and hazardous work of women and juveniles in South African mines.
JOCK MCCULLOCH is a Lecturer in the Faculty of the Constructed Environment, RMIT University, Australia
North America: Indiana University Press; South Africa: Juta