Canada Closing Its Chrysotile Institute, Signaling End of Country’s Asbestos Industry

Canadian asbestos mine in Quebec

After a controversial run that began in 1984, the government-funded Chrysotile Institute announced its closing, yet another signal that Canada’s asbestos industry will not be revived.

According to the Montreal Gazette Sunday, the Institute published its intent to dissolve in the Canada Gazette, the official publication used by the government to announce new laws and make other announcements.

The Chrysotile Institute, which originally was formed as the Asbestos Institute but changed its name to quiet critics, has been used as a mining industry advocacy arm to promote the safe use of this type of asbestos.

Canada, which has more than a century-long history of asbestos mining and exportation, has been under pressure both nationally and internationally to stop promoting the use of this toxic mineral.

The last two asbestos mines in Canada were closed in 2011, but there has been considerable talk of possibly reopening at least one, pending a government loan guarantee in Quebec.

Although Canada has dramatically reduced its own consumption of asbestos in recent years, it continued exporting large amounts of the product to still-developing countries with less stringent regulations like India, China and others in Southeast Asia. In addition, the mesothelioma rate in Canada has escalated in recent years.

Asbestos, which had extensive uses world-wide through much of the 20th century, has been proven to cause a variety of serious health issues, including mesothelioma cancer.  According to  health officials worldwide, no amount of exposure to asbestos is considered safe. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 100,000 people annually die of asbestos-related diseases. An estimated 2,000-3,000 cases every year are diagnosed in the United States, which also has not yet banned the substance.

The closing of the Chrysotile Institute was hailed by anti-asbestos advocates across Canada.

“It see it as a real tipping point in the movement to get Canada out of the asbestos industry,”  said legislator Pat Martin, one of Canada’s most outspoken critics of the industry. “It’s just another demonstration of the death rattle of the asbestos industry in this country.”

Quebec’s industry department, desperate to keep jobs alive, had been offering a $58 million loan guarantee to Balcorp, Ltd, if it could raise $25 million  in financing to reopen the Jeffery Mine in the town of Asbestos. That offer still remains, according to the Gazette.

More than 50 countries have banned asbestos, although both Canada and the United States have not. The Canadian government blocked a movement at the United Nations Rotterdam Convention last summer to have chrysotile asbestos placed on a restricted list of chemicals, which would have made it harder to export.


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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