The town called Asbestos that has an identity crisis

Last Updated on February 28, 2022 by Dan

The town called Asbestos that has an identity crisis

Asbestos was once celebrated as a miraculous fiber and was used a-plenty in manufacturing and construction.

Nowadays though, it’s a different story, because we know how lethal it is and that it’s linked to deadly respiratory diseases including mesothelioma cancer.

The town known as ‘Asbestos’ in southeast Quebec, Canada, knows this only too well.

The town got its name because of it’s history with asbestos mining.  Asbestos was what helped to shape its identity, economy and legacy.

The town is known for ‘Jeffery Mine’ which was the biggest asbestos mine in Canada and also the town’s biggest employer.  It closed down in 2011.

The asbestos mine used to employ more than 2000 residents in it’s heyday.

It’s now been 5 years since the mine’s closure and the town of Asbestos are having an identity crisis and looking for a way to change things and shape their future.

Canada’s history with Asbestos

Canada used to be one of the main producers of asbestos in the world.

The country started to mine chrysotile asbestos back in the 1850’s in Thetford, Quebec, who then proceeded to build mines in 1876.

Then in 1879 the Jeffrey Mine opened not even 50 miles away from the mines in Thetford.

The Canadian asbestos industry really took off at that time and became a thriving industry, with Canada leading the way.

In 1949, the miners in the town of Asbestos notoriously went on strike for 4 months following a dispute over pay and conditions.

It was one of the most violent disputes in the countries history.

A compromise was finally reached and the 5000 asbestos workers received a small payrise and better working conditions.

The industry recovered and by the 1950’s Canada was mining over 900,000 metric tons of asbestos.

The economy grew as a result and asbestos mining provided for thousands of families.

A heavy price to pay

Canada was still at the top of it’s game and mining asbestos throughout the 1970’s because the mineral was still being hailed as a wonder material, even though the dangers of asbestos were beginning to emerge.

Manufacturers chose to ignore the risks because of the benefits of using the mineral (affordable and durable), and it took a long time for Canada to finally ban asbestos.

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, said in May 2016, “We know that its impact on workers far outweighs any benefits that it might provide.”

Although Canada no longer exports asbestos due to the ban, they still import products that contain asbestos.

It’s no wonder that in Canada, the no 1 cause for occupational death is asbestos exposure.

And they have the highest number of mesothelioma cancer cases globally.

Figures taken in 2012 showed that there were 180 new cases of mesothelioma in Quebec, the highest recorded anywhere.

These figures are just a tip of the iceberg, as new cases of mesothelioma are set to rise year on year due to the long latency period that mesothelioma has.

Studies show increase in asbestos related diseases

A health report was conducted in 2004 which involved compiling data from six studies.

These studies were carried out to assess the risk of cancer in Quebec’s population, particularly amongst the asbestos miners.

The results showed there was a significant increase in cases of asbestos-related diseases and death rates from respiratory cancers, in particular from men living in the town of Asbestos, or those who had worked at either of the mines, to include the one in Thetford.

The town of Asbestos’ long history with asbestos mining means that they face a long period of time where residents will be concerned about their long term health and the effects that asbestos will have on it.

Duty holders and employers have a legal responsibility to manage asbestos in their building so as not to put employees at risk. Contact our Armco office for asbestos management and refurbishment/ demolition surveys on 0161 763 3727 or by visiting

Alternatively, to book onto one of our asbestos training courses, please call 0161 761 4424 or visit 



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Published Nov 10, 2016

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