The government of Quebec has decided to ignore the pleas of human rights advocates, hundreds of public health experts worldwide and one of the province’s largest unions and says it will fund the expansion of Canada’s last asbestos mine.
The chrysotile asbestos from that mine will be shipped almost exclusively to Third World nations where asbestos cement plants are being constructed.
Quebec says it will underwrite a $57 million loan to Indian investors to complete digging an underground mine to reach untouched deposits of chrysotile, says Clement Gignac, the province’s Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade.
“We are removing the uncertainty that the Quebec government will continue to support the chrysotile industry, (and) will continue to support the region,” Gignac told the Canadian Press.
At the center of this controversy is the Jeffrey Mine, which was the world’s largest chrysotile asbestos pit, a little more than an hour’s drive North of the Vermont-Canada border. The new project would
For more than 100 years, much of the world’s commercial asbestos came from 11 mines in and surrounding the aptly named community of Asbestos, Quebec.
“The government has decided to thumb its nose at the overwhelming, unanimous opposition to the project from all of Quebec’s medical authorities and to jump into bed with the asbestos traders,” Kathleen Ruff, a leading Canadian human rights advocate told Cold Truth today. (4/14/2011) “Canada is becoming known as the worldwide asbestos pusher and as an enemy of global public health.”
She denounces Quebec Premier Jean Charest and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for their “callous betrayal of human decency.”
She added: “In order to win a few votes, they are willing to close their eyes to the immense suffering and deaths that Canada’s asbestos will cause in developing countries, where people have virtually no means to protect themselves and their families from asbestos harm.”
As Cold Truth reported in a detailed look at the issue in February, Baljit Chadha and his consortium of Indian investors who lobbied hard for the loan insist that the chrysotile form of the six commercial types of asbestos is not harmful.
Bodies such as the World Health Organization have documented that no type or quantity of asbestos can be safely used and say that some experts believe the lethal fibers will take 10 million lives by 2030.
“There is no safe level of asbestos exposure, and even at a very low concentrations in products, it can result in big exposures (and disease,)” says Dr. Aubrey Miller, Senior Medical Adviser for the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and part of NIH.
Chadha, who lives in Montreal, says he has shipped Canadian asbestos to India and a few other countries for the past 15 years. In asking for the $57 million loan guarantee so investors can buy the Jeffrey mine, he promises to supply much of the world’s asbestos market for at least 25 years.
Chadha claims that reopening the mine will bring new life to Canada’s dying asbestos mining region.
Meanwhile, demonstrations against exporting the Canadian asbestos continue in the streets of Indian villages. Children protest against building the local plants that will produce asbestos-cement pipe and roofing and siding building material.
More surprising to some was the vote last month by representatives of the 300,000-member Quebec Confederation of National Trade Unions, which overwhelming opposed the expansion of the Jeffrey Mine.