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Asbestos

 

The term asbestos includes six different fibrous minerals: chrysotile, hamosite, tremolite, actinolite, crocidolite and anthophylite.  Out of these minerals chrysotile (white asbestos), crocidolite (blue asbestos) and hamosite (brown asbestos) was widely used.  Cyprus has the chrysotile variety of asbestos, which makes for 90% of the world’s demand.

 

Chrysotile asbestos occurs throughout the serpentinite group of the Troodos Ophiolite but the main deposits occur over an area of about 20 km2 near the village of Amiantos and within highly fractured plutonic rocks on the eastern slopes of the serpentinite outcrop. The excellent quality and the longer fibres are associated with highly brecciated host rock and are also often associated with concentration of magnetite.  Asbestos is found in veins, the width of which vary from a few millimetres up to 15 mm (Fig. 8).  The fibres are short and in most cases less than 10 mm in length, although locally reach more than 30 mm.  They grow usually perpendicular to the direction of the veins.  The average grade of the deposit was approximately 0.8-1.0%.

 

The genesis of asbestos is associated with the serpentinisation of the harzburgite, the basal rock type of the ophiolite.  Serpentinisation is the product of hydration of the harzburgite, which produces a group of minerals of the serpentinite that have the same chemical composition with the parent rock (harzburgite), but they occupy a larger volume and have a much lower specific gravity.  Serpentinisation occurs from hydrothermal fluids that circulate in the parent rock along fractures.

 

Cyprus has been known for its asbestos since the Classical and Roman times.  Asbestos was used for making textiles, shoes and fireproof materials.  The exploitation of chrysotile asbestos began in 1904.  The material was mined and milled on-site and then transported, initially by overhead ropeway but later by trucks, to Limassol for shipment.  The bulk of the production has been exported with only small tonnages utilised in Cyprus.  Its primary use was in the manufacture of asbestos cement products.  The Asbestos Mine was operating profitably until 1981.  Since 1982, at the time when the price of asbestos dropped dramatically, the mine faced economic problems, which combined with environmental problems led to the cancellation of the mining lease in 1992.  In total, more than 150 million tonnes of rock have been excavated for the production of 1 million tonnes of asbestos fibres.

 

Reserves of around 9 million tonnes of crude asbestos are understood to remain within the northeastern flank of the Mount Olympus area.

 

 

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