Update: Indian Takeover of Canadian Asbestos Mine? 

by Kathleen Ruff
Rideau Institute



The president of the Jeffrey asbestos mine, Bernard Coulombe, has accepted the offer of $15 million from a consortium of Indian investors to buy the Jeffrey Chrysotile Mine. The workers co-operative, which owns 35% of the mine, is supposed to vote on Sunday, October 31, 2010 on the offer and is likely to approve. The one condition is that the Quebec government has to give the Indian investors a $58 million loan guarantee. The Quebec minister of Economic Development has asked the Regional Conference of Elected Officials for the asbestos mining region to research the project and give their opinion to the minister by December 20. They will for sure totally support the project. This is like asking Bill Gates if he likes Microsoft.

If the Jeffrey underground mine project goes ahead, it will export 200,000 tonnes of asbestos a year, mostly to Asia, for the next many decades. It will mean a victory in legitimizing the global asbestos industry and exploitation of people in the global South and will permit the continuation of the leading global propagandist for the asbestos industry – the Chrysotile Institute which is located in Montreal.

The asbestos lobby spends millions of dollars promoting “commissioned science” to reassure the public that asbestos use is safe. Attempts are made to silence asbestos critics; scientists and civil society representatives have been threatened with lawsuits for speaking out about the asbestos hazard. While the asbestos industry can create doubt about the science on asbestos, most people recognize that if Canada and the global North refuse to use asbestos because it kills, then asbestos should not be used in Asia and elsewhere because there should not be a double standard where the lives of people in wealthy countries are protected from harm while people in poorer countries are targeted for harm.

All of Canada's health authorities, including the Quebec government's own National Public Health Institute and the Quebec Medical Association representing Quebec's 7,500 medical doctors, oppose the Quebec government's policy to promote use of asbestos and have called this policy medically indefensible and immoral. Like the vast majority of Canadians, I am appalled by and ashamed of our Government's promotion of asbestos use in the Global South. It speaks volumes that the Canadian government and the Quebec government DO NOT promote use of asbestos in Quebec or the rest of Canada. Working with colleagues overseas, we will succeed in exposing and ending the Canadian and Quebec governments' immoral asbestos policy.

October 28, 2010



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