Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/1/2012 (2838 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — Winnipeg MP Pat Martin is urging the federal and Quebec governments to pull the plug on Canada's asbestos industry.
Financial woes have left the industry on life-support and neither of the last two operations is mining any of the fibre at the moment. It is the first time in 130 years no asbestos is being produced in Canada, and Martin wants to keep it that way.
"Let's let normal market forces take their toll," he said.
LAB Chrysotile Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection Wednesday in Quebec. Its operation in Thetford Mines, Que., was the last operating asbestos mine in the country. It stopped mining last fall due to operational problems and is seeking restructuring investments to make the mine profitable again.
The Jeffrey Mine, located in Asbestos, Que. also stopped operating last fall. The Quebec government has offered up to $58 million in loans to help the Jeffrey Mine dig in a new underground location but the money is contingent on the mine raising $25 million privately.
Martin said it's too early to celebrate but he doesn't believe there will be many people jumping in to help.
"Where do you find an investor to invest in a class-action suit waiting to happen?" he said. "Their prospectus is dressed like the Grim Reaper."
The federal government has supported the industry with $250,000 a year for the Chrysotile Institute, which promotes the use of asbestos. It has not indicated any willingness to provide direct support to the mine operations themselves.
Asbestos was once a king of the Canadian mining industry but has been slowly dying since the fibres were linked to lung disease and cancer in the 1970s.
An estimated 100,000 to 140,000 people globally die each year due to exposure to asbestos. In Canada, it has become the leading cause of workplace-related deaths.
Martin's crusade against the industry is rooted in his own exposure. As a youth he worked in asbestos mines in the Yukon for two years and has lung damage because of it.
The World Health Organization lists all forms of asbestos as carcinogenic. Dozens of countries including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the entire European Union, have banned it entirely.
Canada has continued to support the production and export of chrysotile asbestos, a form the government claims is safe as long as it is properly handled. It has also repeatedly refused to allow chrysotile asbestos to be added to a list of substances in the Rotterdam Convention. Substances on the list aren't banned, but countries exporting them must warn importing nations of the hazards.
Numerous human rights and medical lobby groups, including the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Cancer Society, say that claim is hogwash and have repeatedly called for Canada to ban exports of the fibres.
Last year Canada exported about 100,000 tonnes of asbestos, all to developing countries such as India and Indonesia where workplace-safety rules to prevent workers being exposed are shoddy or non-existent.