Photos of a Former Asbestos Mining Town That's Lost Its Identity

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Photos of a Former Asbestos Mining Town That's Lost Its Identity

Asbestos, Quebec, was once home to the largest asbestos mine in the world.
August 26, 2015, 4:10pm

Andrea and her dog

The small town of Asbestos, Quebec, was once home to the largest asbestos mine in the world. At the time, the widely-used natural resource was considered to be the town's "white gold." But in the 1990s, after it was found that prolonged exposure to asbestos and its dust/filaments was linked to lung cancer, the mining and use of asbestos was phased out of most western industrial nations.

However, it was only a little less than four years ago that mining finally ceased in the town of Asbestos.

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German photojournalist Matthias Walendy traveled to Quebec in 2014 to document a place that, to paraphrase his notes, has lost its identity:

In 2014, I went to Asbestos to stay there for four weeks. I was interested in its industrial and commercial history and in the lives of the people living in a town now bearing the name associated with an unhealthy and harmful image. I found a place that tries hard to look into the future in a positive and optimistic way, yet at the same time looks back sadly into the past, longing for the good old days. Some people strongly believe that the present situation will change some way, thinking that the world will somehow understand how important asbestos is. Others have simply lost any hope.

Before I went to Asbestos I had expected the people there to be rather full of skepticism, shame, and even anger. But they were glad that someone had come who was interested in their past and to whom they could tell their point of view.

View from the mine

Mural in a restaurant

The history of the town in a mural at the parking place of the shopping center

The undertaker of Asbestos

Lucien "Lou" Richard, baseball legend of Asbestos and former mine worker

A vacant building that used to belong to Asbestos Inc.

Mathieu

Guy

Kassandra and Junior Edner

Quad riders. The mine area is open for quad riding.

At the entrance of the town

In the mine

In the mine

The town in the morning

The office of the owner of the Jeffrey Mine, Bernard Coulombe

Serge Boislard, the former president of a pro-asbestos advocacy group

Marie-Claude

The last church in town

Dr. Gilles Morin, a former doctor for a mine

Pieces of asbestos in a little box. It was a present.