Asbestos Mine Faces Bankruptcy 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



The announcement on October 9, 2002, that one of three remaining chrysotile mines in Quebec is ceasing production is a significant blow to Canadian asbestos lobbyists who have, since the 1980s, led international efforts to market this class 1 carcinogen. As Western countries have decreased their use of chrysotile for health reasons, asbestos producers have focused their sales efforts on developing countries. Most of the 180,000 tonnes of asbestos which will be produced by the two remaining mines in Thetford is destined for countries in Asia. The shut-down of the Jeffrey mine reduces total production in Quebec by 40%.

A spokesman for the Jeffrey Mine maintains that although production has stopped, the mine has not closed. The consortium of investors which operates the mine is seeking shelter under bankruptcy laws in order the protect the company’s viability should the market recover. One could say the mine owners are putting a brave face on a bad situation. Another person who is trying to soothe fears about the collapse of the industry is Denis Hamel, a Director of the Asbestos Institute in Montreal, who told the Canadian Press that: "The demand is still there, despite what people think about asbestos and its bad reputation."

Asbestos mining began at the Jeffrey mine in the town of Asbestos in the late 19th century; it was the largest open pit asbestos mine in the world. The Asbestos Mineral Museum, a short walk from the mine, celebrates "the mining tradition of the area…(seeking) to foster an awareness of the richness of local chrysotile asbestos deposits." With the latest developments, the future for the twenty-eight year old museum must look bleak. Perhaps, this is a good time for the Canadian government to reassess its long-standing and generous support of an industry which exports "the grand-daddy of occupational killers" to the developing world, exposing workers and the public to serious health risks no longer tolerated in many Western countries, including Canada.


October 12, 2002



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