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Jeffrey Mine

International Groups Join Forces Against Quebec Asbestos Mine Reopening

Quebec government buildingThough investors in the Jeffrey asbestos mine in Asbestos, Quebec, may be celebrating the Quebec government’s recent decision to offer a $58 million loan to revitalize the mine, their cheers have been somewhat muted as a result of international criticism.

While supporters and asbestos industry lobbyists have hailed the decision, saying it will provide a significant economic boost, scientists and health groups have pointed to the significant dangers the mining of asbestos will bring to the forefront. Quebec has also been blasted for exporting the carcinogenic substance to developing countries while restricting its use at home.

According to Laurie Kazan-Allen, Coordinator for International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), one troubling aspect of the revitalization of the mine is that one key financier, Ulan Marketing Co. Ltd, is an asbestos conglomerate from Thailand. Despite the fact that the Thai government opted to ban asbestos last year, this commitment by Ulan demonstrates the effort of industry groups to reverse the restriction on asbestos.

The Montreal Gazette reports Ulan has provided $14 million to assist the project, while businessman Baljit Chadha and Jeffrey Mine president Bernard Coulombe have put down another $11 million total. That $25 million was required in order for the government to provide a guarantee on the $58 million loan, according to the news provider.

Overseas criticism grows louder

Opposition to the reopening of the Jeffrey mine can be seen across the globe. The British Parliament has denounced the decision by the Quebec government, while publications in Britain, Australia and India have also railed against the actions, according to Kazan-Allen.

In countries like Japan, India and Indonesia, protests have been held in front of Canadian embassies, while officials from other countries – including Korea and the Philippines – have sent letters to Canadian authorities asking them to cease the mining and exportation of asbestos.

Developing countries like these often bear the brunt of such actions by the Canadian government, as they import the asbestos despite the known risks. According to the World Health Organization, asbestos-related diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma – a rare cancer that attacks the tissues surrounding many of the body’s inner organs – kill approximately 107,000 people around the world each year.

Canada’s Double Standard on Asbestos Seen Internationally

asbestos quebec

Asbestos, Quebec

The international community has long been aware of Canada’s double-standard policies regarding the exportation of asbestos to developing countries. With the recent passing of famous Australian mountain climber Lincoln Hall as a result of malignant mesothelioma, Independent Australia put the focus back on the Canadian government’s refusal to adjust its asbestos stance.

David Donovan, managing editor for Independent Australia, notes that while the carcinogenic material was completely banned in Australia in 1991, Canada still engages in the asbestos trade, with the exports sent to developing countries around the world.

This, despite the fact that the dangers of asbestos exposure are hardly a secret. Since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans it has been observed that people working with asbestos were more susceptible to illnesses. Since the 1960s, it has been clear that the inhalation of the dangerous mineral fibers can lead to the development of lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma, diseases that kill approximately 107,000 individuals around the world each year, according to the World Health Organization.

Canada’s exploitation through exportation

A simple examination of the numbers sheds light on Canada’s double standard when it comes to the asbestos trade. Though use of the material, for all intents and purposes, is banned in the country, statistics indicate Canada exported more than 463,000 tons of the material between 2008 and 2010, the vast majority of it being sent to developing countries, according to Donovan.

In India specifically, where 48.5 percent of the asbestos is exported, asbestos cement roofing has been supported by the government as an alternative to safer options including tiles, steel or thatch.

This movement is only furthered by the actions of many Canadian officials who are backed by leaders of the asbestos industry. There is currently a push being made to reopen the Jeffrey Mine in the aptly named town of Asbestos, Quebec, which could triple the country’s production of the carcinogen.

Asbestos contradictions abound

Laurie Kazan-Allen, the Coordinator of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), notes the simple fact that Canada has spent millions of dollars to rid public buildings of the dangerous material while still promoting its use to the developing world highlights its contradictory stance.

“For decades, Canada has led the worldwide pro-asbestos lobby and orchestrated a marketing campaign based on industry propaganda and data provided by hired gun “scientists,” Kazan-Allen wrote in a statement provided to Independent Australia. “Even as Canadian authorities assure workers, governments and consumers that asbestos can be used safely in India, Thailand, Indonesia and elsewhere, a de facto ban on asbestos use exists in Canada.”

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