In the developing world, companies still trying to profit from mining asbestos are betting the developed world will remain a customer. It seems that the Canadian government and, specifically, Prime Minister Stephen Harper also support this vision, and recent accusations assure Harper and Premier Jean Charest are actually trying to save Canada’s struggling asbestos mines.
The use of asbestos products has waned in the developed world over the past thirty years, largely due to stricter regulation, but many seem to think they can still peddle asbestos-laden products to the developing world with little to no consequence. Quebec has two big asbestos mines and some analysts (including the one in this article) say this support from the Prime Minister is a shameless push to win seats in the asbestos mining regions of Quebec for fellow conservatives in the Canadian Parliament.
The mines are on the brink of closure after failing to obtain financing from private investors. Public funding is now in negotiations, which if successful, would open a new mine and export 200,000 tons of asbestos per year to Asia and Africa.
Many in Canada have been trying to end asbestos mining and exports, including the Canadian Cancer Society, health experts and the Canadian Public Health Association, which called the “exporting [of] death made in Quebec … wrong, unethical, [and] indecent.”
In fact, the government is even funding a pro-asbestos lobby group – the Chrysotile Institute – giving the group $250,000 annually. The group has published literature assuring countries in the developing world that the use of asbestos products is handled with a 99.8 percent success rate, when CBC documentaries and Quebec’s own government have found a near 100 percent failure rate.
Canada simply needs to ask itself what is more important: Keeping a dying industry afloat with taxpayer money, or the health and safety of not only those in the mine, but those countries and people who will be importing these asbestos products. The answer should be simple.