One of the original CIM Branches, the Thetford Mines Branch is still going strong. Members of the branch, in Canada’s asbestos production centre, are still
operating mines dating back over 100 years. The Bell Mine and GM Asbestos are both around 110 years old. Mining is the backbone of the community, with
families remaining that are descendants of the late 19th century miners.
Chrysotile asbestos is the main mineral mined in the area, with talc mines and quarries also in abundance, as well as the Magnola magnesium operation.
“Mining is the only major industry in the area,” said Richard Jauron, a past-chair of the branch. “It used to account for 72 to 77 per cent of the area’s
economy. Now we’re more diversified, but mining remains at 30 to 40 per cent.” The two large asbestos mining companies in the area are GM Asbestos Inc. and
LAB Chrysotile. The branch has 325 members drawn mostly from these two companies, but professionals from the talc industry and several related
industries, such as diamond driller and blasting companies, are also members. The branch is working to attract members from the local quarries, through
publicity in local newspapers and Mining Week events.
The branch has an active schedule. Seven technical meetings throughout the year attract a crowd of about 40 people. “The speakers are found through the
executive committee,” said Jauron. “They come from all over Eastern Canada.”
In addition to the technical meetings, the branch hosts three social events each year. An Oyster Party in November attracts approximately 180 people. In
January, a curling tournament is attended by 100 to 125 people, and at the same event is the annual meeting and elections of the branch. The summer is
kicked off in May or June with a golf tournament.
Events are supported by suppliers. “We’re thankful to the suppliers, because they keep us going,” said Jauron. “People really enjoy getting together to
exchange and enjoy topics.”
The branch’s main focus is to keep their members informed about developments in the mining industry. “We focus on improvements in the area, in all aspects,
from geographical to metallurgical, through the monthly meetings,” said branch past chair Jean-Yves Blanchette.
Students receive much attention from the branch. Five scholarships are awarded every year, three for graduates from secondary school ($100 each), one for a
student of the local technical mining school ($475) and one is awarded to a university student ($900). The scholarship program has been around since the
first university scholarship was awarded in 1980. Students are invited to attend all branch meetings and events. “It’s free for students,” said Blanchette.
“It gives them the chance to meet with industry leaders and learn about the industry.”
Other activities also help aid students. A three-year Mining Technology program is offered at the local CEGEP, and the branch hosts afternoon or evening
sessions to inform students about CIM and the mining industry, and to promote university education.
A new project in the past few years is a Student Night, held in the spring. Students, mainly throughout the technical mining school, present papers, and
representatives from all aspects of the industry are invited to attend. “It’s a chance for students to receive recognition for their excellent work and to
meet with potential employers,” said Jauron.
A major concern of the branch is that the demand for chrysotile asbestos is dropping. This led to decreased activity in the area, including a mine closure
in November 1997. The branch works to promote the industry. The local Musée minéralogique et minier de Thetford Mines is an excellent advertising tool,
telling the history and truths of the industry.