Residue from asbestos mine is rich in magnesium, which can be transformed into a light metal used in everything from medical implants to Tesla electric cars
There’s no running away from the past in Asbestos. The town’s most prominent landmark is a crater more than two kilometres wide — and deep enough to lodge the Eiffel Tower — a testament to the world’s once-bottomless appetite for the deadly mineral that sustained the local economy for decades and gave the town its name.
Quebec once produced half of the world’s asbestos and offered the highest-paying mining jobs in Canada before concern about cancer led to the fire-resistant fibre being banned in more than 50 countries, with the mine finally shutting down in 2012.
But now it turns out that the future of Asbestos may actually be in asbestos. Well, not in asbestos, per se, but in the millions of tons of discarded residue that piled up over more than a century of mining for it.
The crushed rocks, known as tailings, are rich in magnesium, a mineral that can be transformed into a light metal that’s used in everything from medical implants to Tesla electric cars.
The prospects are attracting companies eager to cash in, including Quebec-based Alliance Magnesium Inc., which has been running a pilot plant and raising funds to scale up production.
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