Canada waves asbestos mining ‘au revoir’

A loan rejection to the last asbestos miner in the country followed by Canada’s federal government’s announcement that it wouldn’t oppose to list Chrysotile —the type of asbestos found in Quebec — as a hazardous substance, are the latest signs of the country shelving one of the most polemic mining products once and for all.

Asbestos, a mineral that several experts claim it has cost the lives and health of “thousands, probably tens of thousands of Canadians,” as AlJazeera reports Wednesday, is about to officially be part of the country’s history.

Until 2010, Canada exported hundreds of thousands of tonnes of asbestos every year, supplying 85% of the world's needs for the debated material in the early 1900s.

Asbestos production in the country peaked in the early 1970s, but last November authorities suspended all activities in the remaining asbestos mines.

The Canadian province of Quebec's new government, elected last month, was quick to cancel a $58-million loan to the Jeffrey Mine, the country’s last asbestos operation, located in the French-speaking part of the country. The sum would have helped reopen it for the next 20 years, reported The Montreal Gazette.

Federal authorities followed by declaring they would no longer fight international efforts to have asbestos listed as a toxic substance.

One of the companies that used to operate an asbestos mine in Canada, the LAC mine, announced yesterday it was indefinitely suspending its plans to recommence asbestos mining. In an article published in a Thetford Mines on-line publication, entitled Relance de la mine Lac d’Amiante : Simon Dupéré jette l’éponge (Relaunch of the Lac D’Amiante mine: Simon Dupéré throws in the towel), LAB Chrysotile's President, Simon DupéréDupéré, stated that "in light of the recent decisions by the Quebec and Canadian governments to stop supporting the asbestos industry," it would be impossible to attract foreign investors.

Montreal toxicologist Daniel Green told Al Jazeera that Canada failed to sustain this mining sub-sector in a safe manner.

The country's position — not yet officially relinquished— has long been that Chrysotile asbestos can be used safely if proper guidelines are observed.

"If there was a place where one could answer the question: can asbestos be used safely, it's here in Quebec," Green says. "But looking at medical records, looking at epidemiology, looking at diseases, the answer is we have failed to use asbestos safely.

"Asbestos has killed and is still killing Quebeckers. It should not leave the ground and kill people in other countries."

Long condemned by environmental health authorities for producing a deadly fibre, the Jeffrey mine was to reopen next summer and produce 250,000 tonnes of asbestos over the next 20 years, primarily for export to India, Vietnam and other developing countries.

The proud community of Asbestos, who still refuses to believe experts such as Green, alongside other advocates claim the reopening of the mine would have created 425 jobs directly and 1,000 indirectly.

RELATED:

From asbestos to ‘Plan Nord’: Canada’s Quebec sparks controversy over mining plans >> >>

Canada won't oppose listing asbestos as a hazardous material >> >>

Canada’s asbestos industry on its way out >> >>