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Asbestos ore & mine locations: Where has asbestos been mined around the world, where are the principal asbestos deposits? This article describes the locations of asbestos ore deposits around the world and where asbestos was mined.
This articles series about the manufacture & use of asbestos-containing products includes detailed information on the production methods, asbestos content, and the identity and use of asbestos-containing materials.
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Asbestos is made available to industry either directly from the mines or through distributors. Ninety per cent of the asbestos is obtained directly from the mines. Most of the companies that mine asbestos use it principally as an ingredient in their products and have only a secondary interest in supplying it to other companies.
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Asbestos ore deposits have been found in almost all quarters of the world.
The chief producers of industrial asbestos in the world are Canada, Russia, South Rhodesia and the Union of South Africa. The Canadian asbestos deposits are generally considered to be superior to others insofar as essential properties of infusibility, tensile strength, fineness, low iron content, and elasticity are concerned.
The United States is the world's largest consumer and producer of asbestos products. The main source of asbestos for United States is Canada providing approximately 90 per cent of the asbestos used. Domestic asbestos contributes approximately seven per cent.
United States Asbestos Ore Deposit Locations
Domestic deposits of asbestos are principally found in the states of Vermont and Arizona with small quantities available in North Carolina, Georgia, California, Washington and Alaska. In Vermont, chrysotile asbestos deposits are found in slipfiber veins. Even though the slip fiber is quite long, it is not suitable for textile production.
The United States with its Vermont asbestos mines ranks next in order of importance in the production of chrysotile to Canada and Africa.
These deposits supply approximately 3,000 tons of ore per day to a modern plant producing close to forty thousand tons of fiber per year, with a good proportion in the medium length grades. See Figure 1.1 at left.
The Arizona asbestos is of the chrysotile variety and occurs as cross fiber. Because of its extreme low iron content, it is used primarily for electrical insulation and filter fibers.
Figure 1.1 - at above left: View of a quarry bench shows the Vermont asbestos mine filling a high valley in the Green Mountains. (Courtesy The Ruberoid Co.)
Although amphibole asbestos is available in different localities in the United States, the bulk of it is found in Georgia. The output of amphibole asbestos in United States is very small.
Asbestos MIne Locations in California Counties and the Eastern United States
Canadian Asbestos Mines & Ore Locations
For the past 80 years [to 1959], the largest and most extensive asbestos mining operations in the world have been in the eastern townships of the Province of Quebec. Canada produces asbestos in four provinces; i.e., Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and Newfoundland.
A predominant characteristic of Canadian asbestos, as compared to asbestos in other countries, is the remarkable degree of its uniformity as regards its chemical composition and consequently in its technical properties. Modern mill facilities are available. See Figure 1.2.
Figure 1.2. Aerial view showing Johns-Manville asbestos fiber (completely ventilated) mill in foreground, head frame of underground mine at right, and open pit mine in background. (Courtesy Johns-Manville Corp.)
Since 1950 capital expenditures in the mining of Canadian asbestos have been approximately $100,000,000.00. Approximately 95 per cent of the fibers mined is chrysotile. Some production occurs in various locations in the mining of tremolite, actinolite, and anthophyllite.
Asbestos Ore Deposits & Mining in Great Britain
The manufacture of asbestos products is a major industry in Great Britain. The principal source of asbestos is Africa. There are relatively no domestic deposits in the British Isles.
Asbestos Ore Deposits & Mining in South Africa
The three important varieties of asbestos are found in this area. Chrysotile is economically available in large quantities. Crocidolite or Blue asbestos was discovered in approximately 1803 in Cape Providence and Transvaal in South Africa. "Amosite" was discovered in 1907 by a company known as Asbestos Mines of South Africa. The name "Amosite" was derived from the initials of the company.
Asbestos Ore Deposits & Mining in Southern Rhodesia
Chrysotile is the only variety of asbestos found in Southern Rhodesia. This area ranks next to Canada as a world source for chrysotile asbestos; although, the Russian deposits are probably larger. There are different mines in the area however, the largest and most popular being the Shabani Mine.
Asbestos Ore Deposits & Mining in Russia
The enormous territory of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics contains asbestos deposits to such an extent that it should be considered one of the principal producers of asbestos in the world. However, these deposits are generally considered second of importance to the Canadian.
Prior to World War I, Russia occupied second place among the world's asbestos producers. Its largest asbestos mines are situated in the Ural Mountains; deposits also exist in Siberia.
Russia is now [in 1959] reporting a production totaling 790,000 short tons, including 250,000 tons of Groups 7 and 8, with plans for a very substantial increase which will bring the annual figure to more than 1,000,000 tons. It is understood that important chrysotile deposits are under development in the Province of Kazakhstan in Middle Asia with the production of 500,000 tons of fiber annually slated before 1960.
Asbestos Ore Deposits & Mining in Cyprus
The island of Cyprus is second to the Italian deposits; it contains the oldest known asbestos mines. Greeks obtained their asbestos for the eternal lamps and shrouds of kings from these mines. Chrysotile is of prime importance; however, most of the fibers are of the short variety.
Asbestos Ore Deposits & Mining in Italy
The asbestos industry originated in Italy through the mines located in the North; the main area is around Torino. Tremolite and chrysotile are of prime importance.
Asbestos Ore Deposits & Mining in Finland and Yugoslavia
World production of the amphibole varieties of asbestos other than crocidolite and Amosite comparatively limited. The larger quantity is apparently mined in Finland and Yugoslavia. In 1956 Finnish production was 18,000 tons. For the same year in Yugoslavia, production was 8,000 tons.
Canada's asbestos ore reserves are estimated at 47 million tons, based on a mine life of 50 to 75 years. This figure includes a minimum of 20 years of open pit operations. It is difficult to estimate total amount of asbestos fiber reserves, inasmuch as mine owners consider the information to be confidential. In addition, new asbestos ore deposits are being discovered. These not only increase the present supply but also the reserves.
Based on the afore-mentioned figure, and a recent United States Department of Commerce review on this subject, the conclusion is that there will continue to be an ample supply of asbestos fibers. The basic problem will probably be how to take advantage of available fibers.
The Western Hemisphere is self sufficient in chrysotile, but research is definitely needed to develop substitutes and synthetics for the strategic and limited availability of amosite and crocidolite. Chrysotile is the most important fiber; fortunately, it is the most abundant.
Asbestos, Its Industrial Applications - Rosato: Text& Chapter Index 
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