Hopes for reopening the Jeffrey asbestos mine in Canada have been dealt a fatal blow. The newly elected Parti Quebecois government has vowed to revoke a loan designed to breathe new life into Canada’s dying asbestos industry.
Once an industry that employed entire towns, Canadian asbestos mines have struggled to justify their existence for years. In the face of increasing global regulations and public outcry domestically, the Canadian asbestos industry has managed to remain viable by exporting the poisonous mineral to developing third world countries. That is until landslides in October led to the unexpected closure of the asbestos mines in Thetford Mines, Quebec. Where did the industry look to fill its orders? A town actually named for the deadly substance; Asbestos, Que. and the Jeffrey mine.
Following the landslides of last year, talks of reopening the Jeffrey mine began to surface. By June, despite the overwhelming evidence of the carcinogenic properties of asbestos, the former Johns Manville owned mine had secured a $58 million loan with the assistance of the former Quebec government. The loan would have reopened the Jeffrey mine and help fund operations for the next 25 years allowing the province to profit off the export of 200,000 tons of chrysotile asbestos to third world countries annually. While proponents of the mine contend that chrysotile asbestos does not pose health risks, the World Health Organization estimates that 107,000 people will die from an asbestos related disease this year alone.
Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois pledged during her campaign to cancel the multi-million dollar loan after describing asbestos mining as an “industry from another era.” Fortunately, this month voters agreed and elected Marois as Premier of Quebec to carry out her pledge.
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Wesley Bowden is an associate attorney at Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, P.A. He is a member of the firm’s Environmental Department. His practice focuses upon representing businesses and individuals affected by the BP oil spill.