World’s Largest Asbestos Mine Might Be Revived in Canada

A multinational corporation has proposed a deal that would revive the mining and production of asbestos materials in the town of Asbestos, Quebec, AOl News reports.  According to the report, this is the largest asbestos mine in the world.  To refurbish the mine, Balcorp Ltd., a consortium of foreign investors, is asking the Canadian government for $57 million, AOL News reports, which could supply asbestos to developing nations for the next 25 years. However, AOL News reports that Canada is already spending millions to safely remove asbestos from schools and federal buildings within its own country.  The nations which Balcorp will ship the asbestos to include India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines, AOL reports. All of these countries have extraordinarily lax or absent occupational safety laws, explains the article, which allows the material. However, spokespeople for Balcorp insist that chrysotile asbestos, the type mined in Quebec, is not toxic to humans, the article reports. Furthermore, AOL explains that the Chrysotile Institute, Canada’s asbestos lobby, supports that assertion that this asbestos is safe.  Chrysotile fibers are arranged in a curly shape, rather than the needle-like form of other asbestos types, leading some to claim it is safe.  “It is thus quite useless to panic in sight of asbestos chrysotile or products containing this fiber,” a public statement from the lobbying group said. Nevertheless, other medical experts assert that all types of asbestos have been proven carcinogenic, disagreeing with the claims of the lobbyist group.  In addition to mesothelioma, the article goes on to explain that asbestos exposure has been linked with cancer of the lung, larynx, and ovaries, as well as conditions like asbestosis and pleural plaques. AOL News goes on to report that Human rights advocates are enraged over the fact that this hazardous substance, no longer used in Canada, will be exported to developing nations.  According to AOL, the trade in asbestos still thrives in many of these countries because it is a valuable construction material which is strong, fireproof, and useful in a number of products, despite its known tendency to cause cancer.  Oncologist Michael Harbut, chief of the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine in Michigan, says that “It is almost beyond belief that a free and democratic nation like Canada is willing to sacrifice human lives in poor and developing nations on the altar of avarice and greed.” A representative for the Canadian government maintains the nation “does not ban naturally occurring substances.” However, the article writes that the national government may be trying to soothe political tensions with Quebec, which has repeatedly threatened to secede from the nation.  According to the article, residents of Asbestos are displeased with the inactivity of the mine in recent years, which has hurt the local economy greatly. Furthermore, citizens refuse to link any illness or death in the town with the asbestos industry, AOL reports. Balcorp promises to create at least 500 new jobs in that town, AOL reports, and provide their Canadian workers with the most advanced protective equipment.  However, it is not sure the company will make such safety provisions for the workers in other countries who will work with these asbestos-containing materials. References: Schneider, Andrew. (February 17, 2011) “Will Canada export death by rejuvenating its last asbestos mine?” Retrieved February 24, 2011 from AOL News. Previous: Most Common Mesothelioma Treatments: Radiation Next: Asbestos And Mesothelioma Linked To DNA Damage