Though 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.