By Jack Wilson
The Quebec government announced $3 million to fund research into recycling asbestos tailings at a June 22 press conference in Val-des-Sources. The money will create a research chair at the Université de Sherbrooke tasked with investigating how critical minerals, like magnesium and nickel, can be extracted from still prevalent asbestos waste.
Val-des-Sources, known as Asbestos, Que. before a 2020 name-change referendum, was formally the site of largescale asbestos mining. The province estimates about 800 million tonnes of asbestos waste remain on sites in Estrie and Chaudière-Appalaches. The minerals extracted from the tailings are used in the growing green energy sector, including for solar panels and electric vehicle batteries.
“What made us grow for a hundred years, which harmed us when it closed down, will now allow us to grow again for decades,” said Richmond MNA André Bachand. He said he hoped the research could lead to tens, if not hundreds of jobs within a decade.
Much of the research will happen at a Val-des-Sources site, said Université de Sherbrooke Vice-Rector of Development and Partnerships Vincent Aimez, in part to avoid transportation of the hazardous mineral. “While we work with hundreds of grams of material at the university, here we’ll work with hundreds of kilograms,” Aimez said. “What happens in the laboratory is very important for understanding, but after you have to transfer it toward industry.” Working in larger quantities starts to bring the research toward an industrial scale, he said.