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October 19, 2018

Magnesium Extraction in Old Asbestos Mines

After health groups and experts pressured the Canadian government to ban asbestos, it finally agreed to do so in 2016. The ban is going to take effect soon and importing, selling, and using processed asbestos fibers and products containing them (except for trace amounts) will be banned. Residue left from mining asbestos (800 million tons of it) in both Thetford Mines and Asbestos where asbestos was the main economic resource is not regulated though. A company in Quebec is taking advantage of this exemption and is sifting through asbestos mine waste to look for magnesium. Magnesium is mixed in with the asbestos and Alliance Magnesium wants to extract this metal for use in the automotive and aerospace industries.

Alliance Magnesium is being helped by the Quebec government with a $17.5 million equity loan and $13.4 million equity interest. To extract the magnesium the asbestos containing rock is doused in acid, destroying the asbestos and leaving only magnesium and amorphous silica. When doing this, protective equipment is worn to prevent workers from breathing in asbestos that can be potentially released. Alliance Magnesium researched this process and says that it releases very few fibers when it extracts the magnesium from the rock but this is still potentially very dangerous.

The problem with this extraction process is that it is being done near homes, schools, and businesses. While the workers have protective gear to prevent them from inhaling asbestos, homes, schools, and businesses do not have access to the same protections. Even with a small amount of asbestos being released, people could be exposed in the absence of necessary protections needed for safety. The Quebec standard for asbestos exposure is also ten times higher than the rest of Canada- 1 fiber per milliliter versus .1 fibers per milliliter in the rest of Canada. The workers and people in the surrounding areas could be exposed to a potentially high level of asbestos that is legally allowed by the government.

If you were exposed to asbestos and now have mesothelioma or lung cancer, you may be entitled to file a claim. Call 412-471-3980 or fill out our contact form to speak to an attorney and learn your options.

Source:                                                                                                                               

Mia Rabson, “Canada’s ban on asbestos to take effect but mining residues are exempt” Financial Post (October 17, 2018). [Link]

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