The Mystery of Canada's Disappearing Asbestos 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



An analysis of Canadian asbestos data reveals some interesting facts:

Canadian Asbestos Data
(metric tons)1

YearProductionApparent Consumption
2007185,000  39,819

In 2005 and 2006, Canada exported more asbestos than it produced, drawing on asbestos fiber which had been stockpiled to make up the shortfalls. In 2007, when calculations revealed an apparent consumption of 39,819 tons, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) took the unusual step of qualifying this figure with the following proviso: "most probably went into stocks rather than being manufactured." This statement is a recognition that although Canada has not banned asbestos, a de facto ban does indeed exist. The Canadian Government tells foreign customers what it wants them to hear – thereby spreading the asbestos industry's worn-out mantra of “controlled use” – but at home does not follow its own advice as Canadians will not condone the use of asbestos.

With only one asbestos mining corporation still in business – and currently operating under bankruptcy protection – national production fell by 20% from 243,500 tons in 2006 to 185,000 tons in 2007 according to the USGS. More recently things have gotten even worse. According to information from another source, export volumes of LAB chrysotile decreased by 77% between June 2008 and June 2009 going from ~1,100,000 kilograms to ~250,000 kgs. In June 2009, only one order was shipped by the mine. Whereas Canada once upon a time was the world's largest asbestos supplier, it is now ranked 5th in global league tables. A far cry from the glory days when chrysotile asbestos was known as Canada's “white gold.”

August 17, 2009


1 All data is from the United States Geological Survey.



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