The Quebec government has asked its environmental watchdog, the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE), to investigate and report on asbestos residues and asbestos tailings in the provincial environment. The investigation follows a number of proposals to recover minerals from asbestos tailings at former mine sites.
Minister of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change Benoit Charette has charged BAPE with examining the presence, use, recovery and disposal of asbestos in Quebec, the state of scientific knowledge on the health impacts of asbestos and its residues, and the need for a framework to govern the recovery of asbestos tailings. BAPE will also propose methods for safely disposing of asbestos residues.
BAPE will begin its inquiry on November 25, 2019 and will report to the minister no later than July 24, 2020. BAPE is in the process of developing its public engagement schedule.
Canada banned the use, export and import of asbestos in 2018, but allowed a few exceptions, including the processing of asbestos tailings, which contain valuable magnesium. Canada was one of the world’s largest producers of asbestos, a known carcinogen, with deposits concentrated in Quebec. The last asbestos mine in Canada closed in 2012.
In Quebec, asbestos tailings remain near mine sites in the town of Asbestos and the city of Thetford Mines. Prior to 1990, asbestos was used as insulation against noise and fire in building construction. Tailings were also used as fill and as abrasives.