Asbestos Mining Town in Canada Searches for New Identity – by Matt Mauney ( – November 7, 2016)

Asbestos wasn’t always an ugly word. Once hailed as a miracle fiber in manufacturing and construction, it is now scorned for its toxicity and link to mesothelioma and other deadly respiratory diseases.

Perhaps no place knows that fall from grace better than the small town of Asbestos in southeast Quebec. Not only did the asbestos industry give the Canadian mining town its name, but it also shaped its identity, economy and legacy.

The now defunct Jeffery Mine, which occupies nearly one-sixth of the town’s 12 square miles, was Canada’s largest asbestos mine and served as the town’s main employer when it shut down in 2011.At its peak, the open-pit asbestos mine employed more than 2,000 of the town’s 7,000 residents. Now, five years later, Asbestos is searching for a new identity and a way to rewrite its legacy.

Asbestos: Quebec’s White Gold

Canada has a long, dark history with asbestos. Before mining stopped in 2011, the country was one of the world’s main producers of the naturally occurring carcinogenic mineral.

Mining efforts started in the 1850s, when chrysotile deposits were discovered in Thetford, Quebec. The city of Thetford Mines was founded in 1876, and it became a hub for one of the world’s largest asbestos-producing regions. The Jeffrey Mine opened in 1879, less than 50 miles south of Thetford Mines.

By the turn of the century, the Canadian asbestos industry was booming, with Quebec leading the way.

The town of Asbestos was the site of the infamous 1949 asbestos strike, a four-month labor dispute credited for leading to the Quiet Revolution — a period of socio-political and socio-cultural change in Quebec.

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