The Jeffrey Mine, located in a small town in Quebec, provided half of the world’s supply of asbestos at one point, and helped make Canada the world’s largest asbestos exporter by the 1970s. Mining asbestos was so important to the local economy, that the town adopted the name Asbestos. Years later, when it was discovered that asbestos was responsible for causing deadly diseases such as mesothelioma, the mine was shut down for good.
Because it provided dependable, steady employment to most residents for decades, when Jeffrey Mine closed, unemployment increased and the population dropped from nearly 7,000 residents in 2011 to just over 5,200 in 2016.
Today, with the ban on asbestos in Canada approved and set to go into effect in 2019, the town known as ‘Asbestos’ says it can begin rebuilding its reputation, beginning with the Jeffrey Mine.
The vast space is now a busy tourist attraction, with its own dedicated observation post. Just a few yards from the edge of the mine is a new microbrewery that also helps attract visitors. In fact, with the help of provincial government funding, Moulin 7 Microbrewery is already playing a key role in bringing positive attention to the town.
One signature brew, a white Indian Pale Ale (IPA) called ‘La Ciel Ouvert’ (The Open Sky), uses water taken from a lake that has accumulated at the bottom of the mine. This created a buzz. “We had the water analyzed and it is perfect,” co-founder Danick Pellerin said. “People wanted to taste it.” The award-winning brewery now attracts tourists from all over, along with Quebec’s many bikers who visit Asbestos while exploring the countryside.
Other attractions helping to revitalize the town include Mont Gleason ski resort, which now attracts thousands of visitors each year and employs more than 250 people during the winter season, and a regional processing center for one of Canada’s more gourmet food products—duck. The center provides jobs for more than 100 workers, with plans to increase this number, thanks to increasing demand from Mexico. The company says that it is on track to produce four million ducks per year by 2020.
The town of Asbestos also hopes to turn Mine Tailings into revenue. Based on its high magnesium content, mine tailings are in high demand for use in consumer electronics such as mobile phones and electric cars. According to the BBC, a new project has already been set up “under the banner of the Alliance Magnesium (AMI), which has established a pilot facility near the town to test the viability of extracting magnesium from nearby tailings.” The company says that at least 70 jobs will be created “if operations shift to commercial production.”
So far, the push to revitalize the town of Asbestos seems to be working. Since the last census in 2011, unemployment in the town fell from 12.4% to 7.6% in 2016. With all of the positive attention this town has received so far, don’t be surprised if people begin to see “Asbestos, Quebec” as just another name.
If you have been exposed to asbestos, see your doctor right away. Even if you do not have symptoms, your doctor can refer you to a specialist who can develop a monitoring program that can help detect mesothelioma earlier and in its most treatable stages. Talk to your doctor today.
Archer, Lorcan. "The Town Fighting its Killer Reputation." BBC. The British Broadcasting Corporation, 30 May 2018. Web. 12 Sep. 2018.
“Census Profile, 2016 Census Asbestos, Quebec, Canada.” Statistics Canada. National Statistical Office, 2016. Web. 12 Sep. 2018.
Ireton, Julie. “Canada introduces new asbestos rules.” CBC.ca. CBC/Radio-Canada, 09 Jan. 2018. Web. 12 Sep. 2018.