Canada's new asbestos ban will not prevent companies in Quebec from sifting through the waste left over from decades of mining asbestos.The federal government exempted the use of mining residues from the new regulations (Prohibition of Asbestos and Products Containing Asbestos Regulations).
In granting the exemption, the government ignored objections from non-governmental and labour organizations, as well as a formal notice of objection signed by the regional directors of all 18 public health regions of Quebec.
"These residues can contain up to 40 per cent asbestos fibres," the position paper by the public health leaders said. "The federal regulation that aims to protect the Canadian population against the health effects that asbestos can cause cannot ignore the important source of contamination that mining residues constitute."
One Quebec company plans to transform asbestos mining residues into magnesium. It claims to have developed a groundbreaking technology to transform those mountains into two valuable materials: magnesium, a lightweight metal, and amorphous silica, which can be used to strengthen concrete. The process is also said to destroy the deadly asbestos fibres contained in the waste. The Quebec government is backing this plan with a $17.5-million loan and a $13.4-million equity interest.
After decades of mining, the residue has formed a 'mountain range' outside towns like Asbestos and Thetford, where the largest asbestos mines were. It is claimed the process of producing magnesium and silica from the residue could remove the mountain range within 50 – 100 years.