Asbestos mine in Baie Verte, circa early 1980s

The asbestos mine in Baie Verte, seen during the early 1980s, finally closed in 1995. (CBC )

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has turned down a request for legislative changes to help former Baie Verte mine workers who claim exposure to asbestos made them sick.

The risks of asbestos exposure are well-known. Inhaling the fibrous mineral can cause a chronic lung condition called asbestosis. It has also been shown to lead to different types of lung cancer, including one known as mesothelioma.

A group, which includes former miners, union leaders and a Memorial University professor, recently wrote government asking it to clear the way for sick miners to get immediate compensation. 

Service NL Minister Dan Crummell said that's not going to happen right now.

"Not at this point in time. We're going to let this process unfold," said Crummell.

Crummell said the work the group did to set up the Baie Verte miners' registry is valuable — and will help speed up the claims process.

The group says 64 per cent of claims from miners with medically-verified, asbestos-related diseases have gone nowhere.

'Not at this point in time. We're going to let this process unfold' - Service NL Minister Dan Crummell

Provincial NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said the government is failing the miners.

"I think that legislative changes are what is needed, and government can't back down because of money. I would hope that that's not what's stopping them. If it is, it's not acceptable," Michael said.

Crummell said there are currently five outstanding claims from former Baie Verte miners.