ASBESTOS, Que. — To residents of Asbestos, Que., the once-mighty Jeffrey mine that gave the town its identity is known simply as “the hole.” But almost five years after Canada’s largest asbestos mine stopped producing the controversial fibre, Asbestos is looking to move on from the industry that supported it for more than a century.
Key to the efforts is a $50-million regional diversification fund, put in place by the former Parti Quebecois government in 2012 after it cancelled a $58-million loan the Liberals had promised to help the mine renovate and reopen.
Mayor Hugues Grimard is hoping the subsidies available through the fund, paired with industrial know-how and a little hustle, will be enough to attract new businesses to the town of 7,000 residents two hours east of Montreal.
“There are several projects on the table, several important announcements that have been made, and others are coming,” he said in an interview. “The strategy is working.”
In June, Brome Lake Ducks announced a $30-million plan to create a new processing plant and hatchery in the town. That project is expected to produce 150 jobs.
Other new businesses include a pharmaceutical company, a cheese factory and a microbrewery with beer names such as “La Mineur” (“The Miner”), “L’Or Blanc” (“White Gold”) and “La 1949” (“The 1949”) after the year of the famous asbestos strike.
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