Investors granted extension

The Quebec government has given some breathing room to investors trying to relaunch one of Canada’s last remaining asbestos mines.

QUEBEC — The Quebec government has given some breathing room to investors trying to relaunch one of Canada’s last remaining asbestos mines.

Economic Development Minister Clement Gignac says investors have a six-week extension, until Oct. 1, to get financing that will enable them to qualify for a government loan guarantee.

Baljit Chadha, who leads the consortium of investors in the project, praised the government decision and said there is every indication the mine will reopen soon.

“Prior to finalizing the agreement, the Quebec government and the investors wanted to ascertain that the underground mine is in good condition,” the Balcorp Ltd. president said in a statement.

“We have now given them clear indications that the underground mine is in excellent shape and that underground mining operations can begin very shortly after financing is finalized.”

The Jeffrey Mine is one of only two left in Canada that exploits the controversial mineral and a loan guarantee could help keep it alive for another quarter-century.

Chadha, who has accompanied Premier Jean Charest on trade missions to India and organized a fundraiser for the federal Liberals, said investors “are close to a deal.”

Quebec wants to see $25 million in private investment lined up for the mine in Asbestos, Que., before it grants a $58-million loan guarantee.

The original deadline had been Monday.

The extension was the second granted to the company. Government spokeswoman Gabrielle St-Amand said, this time, the deadline must be “strictly” respected.

Yvon Vallieres, the Liberal legislature member for the region, said he expects that to happen.

“It’s the second time Balcorp has been given a chance, while we recognize the efforts made by its owners to get financing,” he said.

More than 10,000 metres of tunnelswere flooded when the proposed conversion to underground mining was put on hold eight years ago.

Chadha said inspections show that less than 50 metres of the galleries need to be consolidated.

Controversy has swirled around government support of the asbestos industry, with some critics saying Canada should get out of it due to its links to cancer.