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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Canada finally bows to global pressure over asbestos

The Canadian government's announcement of a federal budget which excludes funds for asbestos mining could finally see the end of that industry, according to Canadian media.

The Winnipeg Free Press says that an obscure section of the budget document "pulls the plug" on the asbestos industry in locations near Quebec historically associated with the hazardous material.

The government has instead promised funding to support the 2 towns, known as Thetford Mines and Asbestos, after many years' reliance on asbestos mining.

The budget papers acknowledge Quebec's historical importance to an industry now globally discredited. "The chrysotile asbestos industry has been a significant employer in the communities of Thetford Mines and Asbestos in the province of Quebec," the document said. "Due to the decline of the industry, these communities are now exploring ways to diversify their local economies and create new jobs.

"Confirming the commitment made by the government in September 2012, Economic Action Plan 2013 proposes to provide $50 million over seven years to Canada Economic Development for Quebec regions to support economic diversification efforts in the communities of Thetford Mines and Asbestos."

In 2012, the 2 towns were expecting to restart mining with the aid of a $58 million loan promised by then Prime Minister Jean Charest. However, when Mr Charest was succeeded by Pauline Marois, the new premier acknowledged the dangers of asbestos and her country's pariah status due to its export annually of some 150,000 tonnes of the material.

Overturning her predecessor's pledge, Ms Marois won plaudits in Canada and abroad from long-term anti-asbestos campaigners. Pat Martin, an MP from Manitoba who suffers from lung disease caused by an earlier career in Yukon asbestos mines, welcomed the move, but with reservations. "I won't stand down until they ban asbestos in all its forms," Mr Martin said.

Emma Costin of Simpson Millar comments "This news will be welcomed as an important step in the right direction far from the shores of Canada by victims of asbestos disease, their families, carers and representatives many of whom have long campaigned for a world wide ban on the commercial use of asbestos in all its forms. A significant proportion of the asbestos which was used in the UK in the 20th century was imported from Canada. It is good to learn that this particular chapter of the asbestos story seems to be finally coming to an end." 
Location: United Kingdom


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