Quebec government lends C$58 million to asbestos mine

(Reuters) - The Canadian province of Quebec said on Friday it will lend investors C$58 million ($56.89 million) to extend the life of one of Canada’s last remaining asbestos mines, boosting production in an industry that has drawn heavy criticism.

The cash infusion will allow the investor group, led by Quebec company Balcorp Ltd, to reopen the Jeffrey mine in the town of Asbestos in Quebec’s Eastern Townships and complete a long-planned expansion.

The expansion could extend the mine’s life by more than 20 years, the Quebec government said in a statement.

The Jeffrey mine is more than 130 years old but has operated only intermittently over the past few years after running into financial difficulties.

Canada is one of the world’s largest exporters of chrysotile asbestos, which has been linked to lung and other cancers.

While asbestos use is strictly regulated in Canada, critics say the country allows exports to developing countries that lack the safeguards to ensure the material is used safely.

Health and public safety groups have been pressuring the federal and Quebec governments to halt asbestos exports.

($1=$1.02 Canadian)

Reporting By Cameron French; Editing by Peter Galloway