MONTREAL – A Montreal company trying to revive one of the country’s last remaining asbestos mines has requested another extension on a deadline set by the Quebec government.
Balcorp Ltd. was trying to raise $25-million from the private sector before Aug. 15 that would help secure a $58-million bank-loan guarantee from the province.
The cash would allow the Balcorp-led consortium of investors to purchase the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Que., which has operated infrequently in recent years.
The request comes as the industry faces heavy criticism from health experts and international critics, who argue that exporting asbestos to the developing world is unsafe and immoral.
In Canada, asbestos use is heavily regulated due to concerns about the substance’s cancer-causing properties.
But defenders of the industry maintain asbestos is safe when handled properly.
Guy Versailles, a spokesman for Balcorp, said he’s confident the deal will eventually go through.
“We have been working for a year now on getting this deal together,” Versailles said in an interview Saturday.
“We’re almost there but not quite.”
The company was already granted an extension by the government after failing to meet a July 1 deadline.
A spokeswoman for Quebec’s minister of economic development said Saturday that the government would consider extending the deadline again.
Gabrielle St-Amand-Tellier said the door wasn’t closed to a deal, but offered no further comment.
Quebec politicians have traditionally supported the industry, but Premier Jean Charest faces a difficult decision as the asbestos comes under increased scrutiny.
The Canadian Cancer Society says more than 100,000 people die worldwide every year from occupational exposure to asbestos.
Charest faced criticism earlier this year after it was revealed Baljit Chadha, the head of Balcorp, had hosted a fundraiser for the Quebec Liberal Party.
Chadha, who travelled with Charest on a government trade mission to India last year, has been exporting Quebec asbestos to developing countries for years.
There is only one remaining fully functional mine in Canada, located in Thetford Mines, Que.
Supporters of the deal to revive Jeffrey Mine say the purchase would keep it running for 25 years and create 500 jobs in the economically struggling region east of Montreal.
Versailles said fears about asbestos have been “entirely overblown” and the substance is still highly sought.
“Demand for asbestos is very strong in countries that make up two-thirds of the world’s population,” he said.