Canada has, for a long time, been one of the leading producers of asbestos which has now come under extreme scrutiny. For the first time in over 100 years, one of the world’s top producers of mesothelioma-causing asbestos has stopped production at its two remaining asbestos mines because of money and logistical problems.
Canada Under the Microscope
Mesothelioma is a scarce form of cancer in which malignant (cancerous) cells are found in the mesothelium, a protective sac that covers most of the body’s internal organs. In the United States alone, more than 2,000 situations of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year. So it should consequently come as no surprise that Canada is now facing some harsh criticism.
Health officials around the world have been highly basic, if not denunciatory, of Canada’s asbestos industry and its exportation policies because of the clear link between asbestos and various asbestos related diseases such as mesothelioma. Because mesothelioma is an extremely scarce and aggressive form of cancer, more attention is being paid to this issue. The disease attacks the protective tissue that encases both the lungs and lining of the abdomen, and because symptoms don’t appear until decades after asbestos exposure, by the time a patient is diagnosed with mesothelioma, it may be terminal.
Today, despite protective measures, mesothelioma is on the rise worldwide, especially in third-world countries where asbestos is nevertheless used as a cheap additive to building materials. To make matters worse, many of these countries are top importers of Canadian asbestos.
Once a principal force in the world for the production of asbestos, Canada was revered for the production of asbestos-related materials for fireproofing and insulating elements. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Canada produced 85% of the world’s asbestos in the 1900’s – 1.69 million metric tons at its peak in 1973. In 2010, the country produced about 100,000 metric tons – just 5% of the world supply. How many thousands of situations of mesothelioma were caused by the Canadian asbestos industry has never been reported. Now that production has stopped, the Canadian Press says the future of the country’s last two mines remains unclear.
Asbestos Mining To Be Continued?
One of the two mines remaining would need a team of international investors and a bank loan guarantee of $58 million from the government of Quebec in order to start digging in a new section. If things work out in their favor, it is estimated that the mine could continue to produce asbestos for another 25 to 50 years. The Canadian Mining Journal reports that investors hope to begin again production of this mine in the spring of 2012.
The other mine doesn’t seem to be faring quite in addition and has been having ‘operational problems’- though these problems aren’t necessarily due to human opposition. In fact, the problems are due to a enormous rock slide that cut off access to the mine’s economically viable chrysotile. It is unclear when work will begin again at this location.
In the meantime, many mesothelioma activists are furious over the complete situation, arguing that asbestos safety standards in poorer countries are not high enough, which, if Canadian production of asbestos continues, may put thousands more people at risk for mesothelioma in the next ten to twenty years.
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