White Gold Pioneers: Asbestos Mining

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Introduction 1999.340.2 1999.338.2 1999.348.4 1999.348.5 1999.344.4 1999.344.3 1999.343.1 1999.295.3


Musée minéralogique et minier de Thetford Mines, 2005

In 1876, just as the industrial revolution was about to enter its second stage, asbestos was discovered near Thetford, Quebec. Mining promoters quickly bought up land containing the precious fireproof mineral and opened mines. For the industrialized countries, 1896 marked the beginning of a period of unprecedented prosperity. The expansion of the asbestos industry, which was starting to be mechanized, required an increasingly large work force. In this golden age of capitalism, economic liberalism triumphed. According to this ideology, the State should adopt a hands-off policy towards the economy: employers are entirely free to organize production as they see fit, since labour is considered to be a commodity like any other, subject to the laws of supply and demand.