Miners in the asbestos extraction industry were exposed to asbestos every day they worked, putting them at risk illness later on. Asbestos exposure has been linked to numerous diseases, including mesothelioma, and many miners are suffering the consequences now.

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Miners and Asbestos Exposure

Extracting asbestos ore and processing it into raw materials exposed miners to airborne asbestos, putting them at extremely high risk for diseases like mesothelioma.

All asbestos types originate in the ground. They have been mined for centuries. The early Greek and Romans extracted asbestos, but from the late 1800s to the 1990s millions of tons of asbestos were mined in the United States.

At one point, there were over 100 active asbestos mines in America with 60 sites on the east coast alone. Other asbestos mines existed throughout the country, particularly in Washington, Oregon, and California.

U.S. Asbestos Mining Bans
Today, the U.S. bans asbestos mining. The last asbestos mine was shut down in 2002, but during the 1970s, asbestos mining was at its height.

Hundreds of thousands of people worked directly and indirectly in asbestos mining and manufacturing asbestos-related products, and many miners are only just seeing the health impacts now.

How Miners Were Exposed to Asbestos

Every miner working in the asbestos extraction industry had asbestos exposure. Tiny particles filled the air after being dislodged from the parent ore during blasting, hauling, and processing.

There are two main mining techniques — open-pit mining and underground mining or hard-rock mining. Open-pit workers were less exposed than underground miners because of airflow and winds dispersing asbestos fibers.

Underground mining was far riskier for asbestos exposure. These confined spaces trapped asbestos fibers and were difficult to ventilate. Compounding health risks to underground miners was the dangerous amphibole asbestos type they were seeking.

Indirect Asbestos Exposure in Miners

Miners were exposed to asbestos beyond the ore. All mines used heavy machinery that contained asbestos components. Brake linings and clutch facings were asbestos-containing, and these friction parts produced microscopic fibers in their dust.

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Asbestos in Mining Products

Asbestos was also used to insulate and fireproof machinery. It was also part of their buildings through flooring, roofing, drywall, and other asbestos-made products.

Anyone working or living around asbestos mines were at risk for asbestos exposure.

Clouds of asbestos dust emitted from open pits and blanketed nearby office buildings and workers. Asbestos fibers contaminated families through workers’ clothes and equipment brought home. Even nearby locals were impacted by their proximity to asbestos mining activity.

Other Mine Workers and Asbestos Exposure

Miners working in other types of ore mines also faced asbestos exposure threats. Some of their ore materials contained asbestos fibers as a by-product. They also used the same forms of machinery containing asbestos components.

Miner Careers

Miner is a term for many roles and responsibilities. It’s a broad category that includes laborers, skilled tradespeople and professional engineers.

Roles that could have exposed miners to asbestos include:

  • Clerical and supervisory support
  • Crusher, drier, vacuuming, and packaging employees
  • Drafters and computer technicians
  • Drillers and blasters
  • Excavator and bulldozer operators
  • Geological, structural, civil, and chemical engineers
  • Heavy equipment mechanics
  • Maintenance workers
  • Ore truck drivers

Miners with a higher risk of asbestos-related health problems regularly worked around the material for months or years on end as part of their career.

Miner Health Risks

Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Miners who inhaled asbestos fibers through their work had these tiny particles enter their lungs and impale themselves into the lung lining called the pleura.

Asbestos fibers are impossible to exhale, and they remain in the lungs permanently. These eventually make scar tissue that mutates into cancerous mesothelioma tumors.

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Mesothelioma Development Time

It can take 20 to 50 years for mesothelioma to develop after someone is exposed to asbestos.

How mesothelioma forms depends on the amount of exposure, the duration, and the type of asbestos a worker is in contact with.

Asbestos Mining Extraction & Health Risks

Chrysotile asbestos is by far the most common asbestos used in manufacturing products. It has soft, serpentine fibers, making it easy to work with.

Chrysotile deposits are found close to the surface so open-pit mining was the most effective and economical extraction method.

Amphibole asbestos is made of five subgroups. Amphibole accounted for a small percentage of overall asbestos mining but its long, stiff, and sharp fibers made amphibole far more dangerous to miners’ health.

Amphibole asbestos is found in deeper deposits, making underground mining the only practical method.

Did You Know?

Though chrysotile asbestos is more common, any type of asbestos can cause a miner to develop mesothelioma.

Help for Mesothelioma Victims

Compensation for lost income and medical expenses is available for miners who develop mesothelioma through workplace asbestos exposure. They are also entitled to lay claims for personal injury damages.

Families of mesothelioma victims have also filed successful applications on behalf of their ill relatives.

Miners with mesothelioma can contact our Justice Support Team to learn about their legal and medical options. Get a free case review today.

Mesothelioma Support Team
Stephanie KiddWritten by:


Stephanie Kidd grew up in a family of civil servants, blue-collar workers, and medical caregivers. Upon graduating Summa Cum Laude from Stetson University, she began her career specializing in worker safety regulations and communications. Now, a proud member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Cancer Network, Stephanie serves as a voice for mesothelioma victims and their families.

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