In the past, asbestos was heavily used in many industries due to its strong resistance to heat and fire. Asbestos mining took place all over the world, dating back to the Roman Empire. As time went on, mining became prominent in Canada, particularly in Quebec, before it became popular in the United States. Although mining gave many people lucrative careers, it came with the price of asbestos exposure.
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Asbestos Mining in the United States
Asbestos mining in the U.S. started at the beginning of the 20th century. Mining began in Georgia but within the next several years expanded across the Eastern portion of the nation. Eventually, asbestos mining began in the West Coast, including Washington, Oregon, and California. Numerous other states followed.
Asbestos mining continued on for numerous years, with its highest activities around the early 1970s. However, by the late 1970s, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed strict regulations on asbestos use. In turn, asbestos mining significantly decreased. Yet, the regulations came far too late as thousands of people were already developing life-threatening illnesses.
Although Libby, Montana is a relatively small town surrounded by the Cabinet Mountains, it’s home to large amounts of asbestos-contaminated vermiculite. Vermiculite is a group of minerals that contain numerous other types of minerals, which in some instances, can include asbestos.
Mining in Libby, Montana began around 1920, but it was when the company W.R. Grace & Company took over the mining in the 1960s that the most contamination took place. Not only were those mining at great risk for developing a deadly illness, but the people within the city were also in danger. In fact, the contamination in Libby was so severe that is designated by the EPA as a Superfund cleanup site in 2002.
Along with a myriad of workers who developed asbestos illnesses and eventually passed away, thousands of Libby residents were also affected by airborne asbestos fibers and other toxic contaminants.
In 2009, the town of Libby still remained at risk of toxic asbestos fibers and other contaminants. It was declared a public health emergency health emergency, and cleanup in the town is still ongoing.
Iron Range, Minnesota
Numerous people who did mining work in the taconite plants in Iron Range, Minnesota developed asbestos-related illnesses after being to asbestos for prolonged periods of time. One former worker, Gene Olds, who worked at the LTV Steel plant, developed asbestosis in 1996, which led to him wearing an oxygen mask permanently.
Olds passed away in 2013 due to asbestosis complications, but prior to his passing, he opened up on how difficult it was on him and his family to live with an asbestos illness.
“It’s something I don’t wish on anyone. I just don’t. It’s hard on my family. It’s hard on me. I can’t do the things I always wanted to do.”
According to a report published in MPR News, 80 Minnesota miners died from asbestos-related illnesses during the 1990s alone. Most miners worked at the taconite plants because of the excellent wages and benefits, although they were placed at great risk each time they went to work. Yet, they were ever informed of the risks they were taking as the dangers of asbestos were well-hidden, even though manufacturers knew of its toxicity.
Other Places Where Asbestos Mining Took Place
There were numerous other states where asbestos mining took place, including, but not limited to:
- North Carolina
Additional Resources for Asbestos Victims
If you’ve been injured by mesothelioma, asbestosis, or asbestos-related cancer, keep in mind that there is a good chance that you’ll qualify for considerable compensation. Remember to fill out our from to get your free Financial Compensation Packet, with information on asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers in your area.