Asbestos Part 2
by Claire Lindell.
The Asbestos Strike of 1949 was a major historical event, that touched the lives of many. In a recently posted blog on Genealogy Ensemble, ‘A Turning Point in Quebec History, reflects the turning point through the eyes of a nine-year-old living in the town during the strike”. At the end of WWII created a huge boom in construction. There was a great demand for asbestos fibre products. These products were. fire-resistant. Insulation, outside shingles, roofing tiles, floor tiles and a myriad of other products were being used in construction. The company was thriving and continued to do so throughout the next twenty years.
My Dad, Karl Lindell, played a minor role behind the scenes throughout the five months the workers were off the job. When the strike was over and the workers resumed working in the pit, underground and the mill, management realized that changes in their operations were necessary.
The Canadian Johns-Manville Company (CJM)developed a long-term plan to enlarge the open pit. In doing so, they expropriated large portions of the town and expanded in new directions. Underground operations continued. As part of these changes, in January of 1950 Dad took on a major role and was named Mine Manager of Jeffrey Mine, the largest open pit in the Western hemisphere. His responsibilities within the company were to bring stability between the workers, the union and management while producing enough asbestos to meet customer’s orders.
Hitachi advertisement for a 200 ton truck
Some of the major changes within the operations revolved around phasing out the old railway system that had been in use for many decades. The company invested in an efficient roadway within the pit and purchased several humungous 200-ton trucks to haul the crushed rock, the results of the blasting that took place several times each day. The trucks hauled their loads to the new Mill #5 to be processed removing the valuable veins of fibre in the mill where the company installed a huge dust filtration system that monitored the air quality. The fibre was extracted from the rock, bagged, ready for shipment to factories and countries around the world. The trucks were also used to haul away the residue (leftover crushed rock) often referred to as ‘tailings’, to a site outside of town.
Dad was responsible for the many changes and the daily operations. It was noted in the minutes of a National Employees of the Mining Industry meeting in January of 19501. That at one of his first meetings with the employees after taking on his new position, he assured them that every employee was equal, no matter their position in the company. He noted that there were errors committed by both the company and the union during the strike.
He earned the respect of the workers and the Union. throughout his working days with CJM.
Operations ran smoothly. As time went on, there was a need to develop a specific division relating to the sale of products. The company created the Asbestos Fibre Division and Dad headed that operation. At the time he had an opportunity to move his family to Montreal where the Division had offices. He chose to remain in Asbestos. This permitted him to maintain a good relationship with the workers.
Dad retired after 25 years (1945-1970) of devotion to CJM and the Asbestos community. He had traveled the world on behalf of the Asbestos industry. His contributions to its growth and development were recognized by the industry and the citizens of Asbestos.
In the latter years of Dad’s time with the company, there were deep concerns about asbestos fibre being a health hazard. By the 1980s the industry declined at a rapid rate. For a time, the Quebec Government was supportive of workers, however, over time there was an outright ban on the production of asbestos fibre. This left may workers without jobs.
How would the town survive? Could the town survive?
Part 3 will highlight some of the ways the community coped with the lost jobs and the numerous strategies that have been used since the 70’s . Did Asbestos become a ghost town? Did it find new ways and means for those who lost their jobs when all operations shut down?
1. SAHRA. Fonds de la Federation de la Metallurgie P5. Cahiers des process-verbeau des reunions de la federation Nationale des Employees de l’Industrie Miniere. Janvier 1950, p.99-100, Asbestos filons d’histoire 1899-1999, Lampron, Rejean, Cantin, Marc, Grimard, Elise, Imprimeries Transcontinental inc., Metrolitho 1999
www.mindat.org/loc-581.html Jeffrey Mine, Asbestos, Les Sources RCM, Estrie, Québec, Canada The geological map is copied from Horváth et al. (2013) Local Geology: .