asbestos mines

The Jeffrey mine in Quebec's Eastern Townships had mostly shut down by 2010 but was to be revived with a $58-million loan from the Quebec government. It is looking more and more likely that Canada's last remaining asbestos operation will never resume. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

The Jeffrey asbestos mine is next to Asbestos, Québec, east of Trois Rivieres, south of Québec.

The Jeffrey Mine, Asbestos, Québec. ⓒ 2013 Cines/Spot Image, Digital GlobeAsbestos: silicate minerals in long fibrous crystals. Used for its sound absorption, fire resistence and its otherwise inert insulative properties. And it is cheap. And it has been added to concrete, asphalt and other materials to extend structural capacity for building applications. And it is deeply injurious to lung tissue.

Here is a very good essay by John Gray and Stephanie Nolen on the complexity of the asbestos issue:  'Canada's chronic asbestos problem', The Globe and Mail, Nov 21, 2011.  Chillingly they say that although there is still much asbestos in the region it is relatively expensive to mine compared to 'lower-cost and comparatively unconflicted industries in Russia, Brazil, Kazakhstan, China and Zimbabwe'.  The pits at Thetford Mines have been quietly closed, asbestos has been renamed chrysotile, OECD-G8 Canada insists chrysotile is fine, Québec is cross that the asbestos industry is so maligned, probably given that it is so freely accessed in Zimbabwe.  What is wrong with that sentence?

Here is Asbestos when it was a few houses; a company town. As one can see in the google map aerial above, Asbestos is still a small town glued to the edge of the excavation.  Someday hence, will we wonder what people were thinking of, to throw whole generations into such danger?

Asbestos : V. Dubois, phot.-édit., [1918 et 1928], bibliothèque et archives nationales du québec