Town of Asbestos

Town of Asbestos May Have Future in Magnesium

asbestosIn the town of Asbestos, Canada, there sits a mile-wide crater that locals say is deep enough to hold the Eiffel Tower. You wouldn’t even see the tippy-top sticking out, they point out. Within that crater, thousands of miners once harvested asbestos.

For decades, Asbestos, Canada, located in the province of Quebec, produced half of the world’s asbestos. The mineral provided income to scores of local residents and certainly aided the finances of the province and the country, in general.

But nearly six years ago, the government succumbed to concerns about the toxicity of asbestos and closed the Thetford Mines in Asbestos, putting many out of work but pleasing those who’ve been rallying for the cessation of asbestos mining in Canada and a total ban on the mineral.

Nonetheless, the town is left with that huge hole in the ground and hasn’t been sure how to handle all the asbestos tailings left behind. These so-called tailings are discarded residue – crushed rocks, actually – that piled up over the decades and remain in place, though they’re likely currently snow covered.

Apparently, however, the rocks are rich in magnesium…and that just might be the key to reviving the town’s bleak economy.

Because magnesium can be turned into a light metal that has countless uses, companies are eager to cash in on what’s been left behind, reports Bloomberg. Alliance Magnesium Corp. – based in Quebec – is already giving it a try, operating a pilot plant and hoping to ramp up production in the near future.

They say the magnesium could start an economic revival in a town that has certainly suffered greatly from the mine’s closure. Alliance estimates that it may eventually hire up to 350 locals, and the government is eager to help as well, offering loans to companies who want to take advantage of the wealth of magnesium in and around the mine.

Local government officials are enthusiastic but cautious about Asbestos’ potential new economy.

“We had to manage economic decline for a long time,” said Alain Roy, an Asbestos town councilman since 2005. “Now we have to manage growth.”

They just need to keep up with the Chinese, Roy knows, since companies there have dominated the magnesium production market for the last dozen years of so.

The Bloomberg article points out that magnesium is a much-coveted metal these days, being scooped up by automakers who are eager to make lighter cars that comply with carbon emissions standards.

It’s also used in medical equipment and for other types of machinery.