UPDATE: Canada’s Deadly Asbestos Exports by Kathleen Ruff

In spite of the political support of both the Quebec government and the Canadian government http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/canada-labeled-immoral-asbestos-pusher-as-harper-visits-quebec-mining-town/article1999035/, the asbestos industry has still not succeeded in its plan to open up the Jeffrey underground mine in the town of Asbestos and revive Quebec’s dying asbestos trade.

The Jeffrey open-pit mine (which for most of the past century was the Johns Manville mine) was the largest open-pit asbestos mine in the world, but is now closed, having exhausted its asbestos deposit. The only operating asbestos mine left in Canada is run by LAB Chrysotile Inc. at Thetford Mines, Quebec. It is under bankruptcy protection and it too is about to exhaust its asbestos deposit. It has already started laying off workers. Luckily, the town of Thetford Mines has successfully diversified its economy over the past decades and is seeking to attract workers to the area to fill the jobs available. The government should assist the last 300 asbestos miners, whose average age is over fifty years, with either a decent early retirement pension or with transition assistance into new employment.

For over a year, Jeffrey Mine Inc. has been trying to re-launch Quebec’s asbestos trade by opening up an underground mine that was 90% built in the 1990s. This project has the support of Quebec Premier Jean Charest and newly re-elected Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. All of Quebec’s medical and public health authorities oppose the project, saying that it will increase asbestos-related deaths overseas and in Quebec itself. Premier Charest and Prime Minister Harper refuse to listen to the medical experts and instead give their support to the asbestos industry. The Quebec government has already approved a $58 million loan guarantee to be given to a consortium of investors, if the consortium can come up with $20 million of its own funds. Earlier the government set a figure of $25 million, but seems to have dropped the amount in an effort to help the consortium. For months, the consortium has been trying to raise these funds from overseas investors, but has so far not succeeded.

As the Quebec minister of Economic Development has noted, all of the strong opposition to the project has created an unattractive climate for investors.

The item by The Daily Show, “Ored to Death“, viewed by millions, which exposed the insanity and inhumanity of the Jeffrey mine project did not help the would-be asbestos traders. Bernard Coulombe, president of Jeffrey Mine Inc., says that he’s going to have trouble raising the $25 million in private-sector financing he needs to open the underground mine http://montreal.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20110520/daily-show-asbestos-segment-pr-lessons-110522/20110522/?hub=MontrealHome

The government has set July 1 as the deadline by which the investors have to submit their financial plan with the $20 million funds. The president of Jeffrey Mine Inc. says that he is going to India this month to meet interested investors.

Meanwhile, the fight continues to stop the Jeffrey mine from going ahead.

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