Valorisation of asbestos waste: immense potential

ASBESTOS – Both the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and the Ministry of Economy and Innovation of Quebec are in favor of the exploitation of asbestos-related mine tailings such as those found in large numbers in Estrie . The Ministry of Health is more reluctant.
This is the conclusion of the second day of the BAPE public hearing as part of its investigation of asbestos and asbestos tailings. For the occasion, the Asbestos Room was once again crowded.

“The idea of ​​upgrading waste dumps is in the spirit of avoiding the continued exploitation of minerals and giving new life to a resource already extracted,” says Danielle Pépin, representative of the Ministry of Economy. A residue becomes a raw material for a new business and is given economic value. ”

The potential economic benefits of the approximately 800 million tonnes of asbestos-related tailings found in Quebec are very significant, according to Ms. Pépin.

“If we consider that there is for example 25% magnesium, we arrive at about 200 million tons,” she says. And it’s only for magnesium metal because we have plans for magnesium oxide, hydroxide or bicarbonate. ”

The ton of magnesium sells for the moment about 2200 US $, according to Ms. Pépin. A quick calculation shows that, simply for magnesium projects, the economic value of tailings dumps is theoretically more than $ 400 billion.

“We talk a lot about magnesium because it is the most advanced project currently, but we could also exploit nickel or chromium,” says Pépin. We can exploit each of the materials and if we add them, we have a large economic potential. ”

Investments of $ 1.3 billion are also planned by the government for tailings projects, creating more than 600 jobs.

Health risks

In the evening, the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS) took the floor to present its sectoral report. It has positioned itself against the development of asbestos-related waste.

“Given that asbestos in all its forms is recognized as being carcinogenic in humans, the MSSS judges that the exposures of workers and the population must be kept as low as possible,” reads the conclusion of the report. report. The ideal situation from the point of view of health prevention is therefore not to recover the asbestos mine tailings. “

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