Quebec grants extension for asbestos mine

The Quebec government will extend a financing deadline for one of Canada's last asbestos mine, according to a high-ranking official from the city of Asbestos, Que.

Deadline to raise $25M pushed to October 1

Lab Chrysotile asbestos mining operations in Black Lake Que. December 13, 2010 (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

The Quebec government will extend a financing deadline for one of Canada's last asbestos mines until the fall, giving more time for operators to restart production of the controversial mineral.

The owners of Jeffrey Mine had been given until Monday to raise $25 million in private financing that would allow them to secure a provincial loan guarantee. The government has now extended the deadline to Oct. 1.

On Sunday, Balcorp Ltd. said it was confident it could raise the funds required for its bid to take over the mine  but was still short.

The extension gives the Montreal-based consortium more time to attract investors and secure a $58-million loan guarantee from the Quebec government to extend the life of the Jeffrey Mine, located in Asbestos, Que., another 25 years.

The plan has drawn criticism from health officials, both in Canada and abroad, who say mining the mineral is immoral.

Asbestos industry on decline

Canada is one of just a handful of countries that continue to produce asbestos, and the federal government says it is safe to use if handled properly.

However, the majority of asbestos is exported to poor countries, where opponents say safety standards are lax or non-existent.

Canada's asbestos industry has been on the decline for decades.

Canada mined 150,000 tonnes of the mineral in 2009, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey; a significant drop from the 714,000 tonnes produced in 1989.

Most of the country's asbestos comes from an operation in Thetford, Que.

General manager Georges-Andre Gagné for Asbestos, Que. said reopening the Jeffrey Mine would have a big economic impact on his community.

"We're talking about saving 225 jobs in a city of 7000," he said.

Gagné said the town needs more time to diversify its economic base.

Tories tussle with asbestos widow

The federal Conservatives, meanwhile, sent a threatening letter to the widow  of a man who died of mesothelioma, a cancer of the stomach and chest that is caused by exposure to asbestos, saying she is illegally using the party's logo.

Michaela Keyserlingk has been running an online banner since the spring that reads, "Canada is the only western country that still exports deadly asbestos!" along with the Conservatives' official symbol: a blue letter C with a Maple Leaf.

Conservative party executive director Dan Hilton warned Keyserlingk to stop using the symbol immediately.