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Asbestos, a Town with a Dark Past, Looks Forward to a Bright Future with Green Magnesium

© by Alliance Magnesium

Today, Alliance Magnesium officially broke ground on the construction of its high value-added magnesium ingot production plant. Construction of the environmentally responsible magnesium plant in Asbestos, Quebec, is expected to create more than 100 jobs in the region. The casting center will become operational first, ready to recycle magnesium as of the first quarter of 2021. Then, construction on the site will continue for another year in order to complete the plant facilities. Alliance Magnesium already has 15 employees. This fall, operations and maintenance staff will join the team to fulfill the needs of the casting center and more hiring will be done as needs evolve.

According to Alliance, the demand for magnesium has increased from 300,000 tons 20 years ago to more than 1 million tons today. This growth of magnesium use is most apparent in the automotive and aerospace sectors where the material is used to reduce vehicle weight and electrify transportation. These industries are facing the major challenge of reducing the weight of vehicles and equipment in order to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2017, Alliance Magnesium produced its first metal magnesium ingots at its Danville demonstration plant in Quebec. Their patented process powered by hydroelectricity extracts magnesium from serpentine tailings (from defunct asbestos mining operations) to produce recycled magnesium. This process involves a hydrogen gas diffusion anode arrangement for use in electrolytic production of metals.

“It’s a combination of tools and a great team, it’s a promising project with first class partners…bringing magnesium production back to Quebec after almost 20 years of absence,” said Michel Gagnon, CEO and chairman. “In addition to job creation, our goal is to produce a quality product and maintain our commitment to reducing greenhouse gases.”

Green Magnesium

According to Alliance Magnesium for every ton of metal produced, 23 tons less COwill be created, this is 85% less than current producers. Alliance Magnesium is committed to redefining industry standards with a process goal to generate 10 times fewer greenhouse gas emissions per ton of magnesium produced than current producers. Magnesium is a very light material that is essential to Quebec’s transportation electrification strategy and the fight against climate change.

A Town Called Asbestos?

Last year the mayor of Asbestos, Hugues Grimard, announced that his town in southeastern Quebec is looking for a name change in 2020, believing it could spark a much needed economic recovery. For years officials in the small town have been struggling to develop a new identity to separate it from its darker past.

The once-coveted mineral was mined there for more than 120 years, creating thousands of high-paying jobs that led to the town’s naming and development. It is now widely known that the mineral is toxic and exposure to asbestos can lead to deadly diseases including mesothelioma cancer.

The historical significance of the connection between the town and mineral is profound, making the idea of a name change an emotional issue for the 6,800 residents today. Some want to preserve the history of the mining town by keeping its namesake. The Jeffrey Mine took up 1/6 of the town’s 12 acres and the large open-pit mine was responsible for fueling construction and manufacturing industries all over the world.

Unfortunately, the World Health Organization estimates that more than 100,000 people die each year from asbestos-related illnesses. More than 60 countries ban the use of the mineral today. The Jeffrey mine was closed in 2011, and Canada only just banned asbestos in 2018. The past several years have been wrought with financial hardship for a town that used to depend on asbestos production.

“Alliance Magnesium has immense economic and collective value for our region. After what we have faced over the last few years, our efforts to build a future out of the remains of the past are finally being realized,” said Grimard.

This innovative plant will stand out for its technology and processes that will enable the production of more responsible and high-quality magnesium. It’s a shining example of changing history for the better.

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