A government loan announced Friday will revive one of Canada’s last asbestos mines, assuring exports of the fireproofing and insulating fibers for another 20 years.
The province of Quebec said it would put up Can$58 million ($57 million) toward renovating and reopening the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, after it was shuttered last year due to financial setbacks.
Private investors led by Balcorp will kick in another Can$25 million.
The Jeffrey Mine and the nearby Thetford Mine were Canada’s last two operating asbestos mines. Their closures marked the first time in 130 years that Canada, which once dominated world production, had suspended production of the mineral.
According to the last figures available, Canada exported 750,000 tons of asbestos in 2006.
India, Indonesia and the Philippines, among others, have been major importers of Canadian asbestos.
The fibrous crystal mineral is primarily used as building insulation because of its sound absorption and resistance to fire, heat and electrical damage but exposure to it can cause lung inflammation and cancer.
Critics say asbestos exposure claims more than 107,000 lives around the world each year.
Canada’s industry minister last year pointed to scientific reviews that found asbestos can be used under controlled conditions, but the opposition said the government was ignoring advice from its own scientists to stop mining and exporting it.