QUEBEC CITY—The last-standing asbestos mine in Canada could be revived in a business deal that has recently received conditional support from the Quebec government.
The Jeffrey Mine in the city of Asbestos, Quebec is only remaining asbestos mine in Canada.
A consortium of private investors is planning to provide a $58-million loan to help the cash-strapped mine.
Quebec’s Economic Development Minister, Clement Gignac said this week that the group should have little trouble completing the deal.
“We are removing the uncertainty (in affirming) that the Quebec government will continue to support the chrysotile (asbestos) industry, will continue to support the region,” Gignac said.
Gignac also said a $7.5-million fund will be created to help diversify the region’s economy. It will be financed, in part, on an annual basis by the mine’s anticipated revenues.
A relaunch of the Jeffrey Mine, which has been mostly dormant in recent years, would add another 25 years to its life. The government said it would create more than 400 full-time jobs in the central Quebec region.
But Canada’s chrysotile asbestos industry has faced widespread criticism both nationally and around the globe.
The directors of Quebec’s 18 regional public-health bureaus recently warned that restarting the mine would significantly increase the number of asbestos-related diseases among workers and the general population.
The Canadian Cancer Society says chrysotile asbestos is responsible for more than 100,000 deaths around the world every year.
Meanwhile, supporters of the project insist chrysotile asbestos is safe to handle as long as guidelines are followed.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered his support for the industry during a recent campaign-trail stop in the riding. The federal Liberals and NDP oppose the asbestos exports because of the health concerns.
Gignac admitted that Quebec could eventually toughen its regulations on asbestos.
The province’s exposure limit for dangerous asbestos fibres is 10 times higher than other parts of Canada and 100 times higher than some European countries.
“We believe that chrysotile can be used safely, but we’re not saying that we can’t have a tighter regulation,” Gignac said.