Don’t call it a comeback.
Asbestos, the fire-resistant insulating material, was once a go-to in industrial and commercial products ranging from adhesives, paints, and plasters to flooring, siding, and even household products such as hair dryers.
But once researchers began to learn about the health impacts of breathing in the dust from displaced asbestos fibers, the love affair ended and fears of deadly conditions like mesothelioma and lung cancer put the material at the center of a massive number of lawsuits.
According to Bloomberg, asbestos may be getting a second act – well kind of. See, there’s this city in Quebec that was, quite unfortunately, named Asbestos long ago when it mined massive amounts of the deadly mineral. Well, apparently, it’s been discovered that its industrial history has left the community with massive amounts of magnesium-rich “tailings” – a kind of crushed rock that was a byproduct of traditional asbestos mining. Magnesium has quite a market these days, as it serves as a lightweight solution for metal-heavy industries including automotive and medical products, and the Canadian company Alliance Magnesium has a pilot plant project underway in an effort to capitalize on it.
While a Canadian town like Asbestos may reap the rewards of producing this magnesium, it’s industrial buyers in America that will benefit in their own right – especially those Tesla types who are clamoring to spec in the lightest of materials to maintain efficiency benchmarks. Not only that, buying magnesium from Asbestos would allow U.S. companies to avoid the China-produced version, which comes with its own 60 percent tariff. Bloomberg also says the “geo-political risks” of using China as a sole or primary supplier also have many seeking an alternative – which might just be Asbestos. The town.
And speaking of which, the newfound opportunity for this enclave in Quebec might mean one fewer casualty from the asbestos era. Where there was once decline, there is now growth and Alliance Magnesium has been scaling up production with the U.S. market in mind.