Canadian Asbestos Mine Could Reopen Despite Bankruptcy Filing

Asbestos mines in Quebec

One of the last two asbestos mines in Canada declared bankruptcy recently, but the threat of a future reopening has not disappeared.

The president of LAB Chrysotile, which operates the Lac d’Amiante mine in Quebec, told the Montreal Gazette this week that filing for bankruptcy was a way to save the 350 jobs and eventually restart production.

“I can’t discuss the financial details, but our ultimate goal is to restart operations under a new structure at the former production rate,” Simon Dupere said. “The company is no long financially viable in its present form.”

The Lac d’Amiante mine, which halted production back in October, produced chrysotile asbestos fiber and exporting most of it for more than 50 years.

Much of the exportation in recent years went to Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. The bankruptcy filing, which was detailed by the Gazette, listed assets of $3.36 million and liabilities of $50.1 million. Early in 2011, the company had listed annual revenues at $50 million.

The shutdown at Lac d’Amiante last fall closely followed the suspension of operation at the nearby Jeffrey Mine, which together halted all production of asbestos in Canada for the first time in 130 years. Owners of the Jeffrey mine already have said they want to reopen, awaiting a government-backed loan guarantee.

Both mines possibly could be reopened late in 2012.

“We have a structural problem. We have a problem with fixed costs and this will be resolved with the (bankruptcy filing),” Dupere told The Canadian Press. Now we will talk to everyone involved, and we will see how we’re going forward and how we’ll revive the project.”

The reopening of either mine in the future is expected to be met with considerable protest from critics around the world, which include health care experts and activists who know the dangers that come with the mining.

Asbestos, which has been banned in more than 50 countries, is the cause of mesothelioma cancer, asbestosis and a variety of respiratory illnesses. Neither Canada, nor the United States has banned asbestos, although its use has been dramatically reduced and tightly regulated.

The World Health Organization has estimated that up to 100,000 people die each year from occupational exposure to asbestos.

Proponents of the mines contend that certain types of asbestos can be managed safely. Asbestos, a naturally-occurring mineral, was once widely coveted for its heat containing and fire resistant qualities. Industry executives also point to the hundreds of jobs is creates in an economically-depressed area of Canada.

The Conservative government in Canada has resisted international efforts to add asbestos to a hazardous chemicals list that would make it more difficult to export. The product remains in demand throughout still-developing countries, which use it in both home and business construction.


Tim Povtak is an award-winning writer with more than 30 years of reporting national and international news. His most recent experience is in researching and writing about asbestos litigation issues and asbestos-related conditions like mesothelioma. If you have a story idea for Tim, please email him at tpovtak@asbestos.com

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