According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), there are 142 former asbestos mines in the continental United States. Of these, only a handful of mines in a few states (California, Vermont, Arizona, and North Carolina) have produced large, commercial quantities of asbestos. Starting in the early 1960s, multiple large, open-pit mines in California were brought on line, greatly increasing the country’s domestic production. Before that, from roughly 1900 to the late 1950s, “home-grown” asbestos was largely confined to the Eden and Lowell mines at the base of 3,376-foot-high Belvidere Mountain in Northern Vermont.
Chrysotile asbestos or “white asbestos,” the most common type of asbestos mined in the U.S., was first discovered in the Belvidere Mountain area in the 1820s. By 1899, two mines on either side of the mountain had opened: the Eden mine on Belvidere’s south slope and the Lowell mine (the larger of the two) a mile or so to the east. Geologically, these mines are the southern tip of the Quebec asbestos belt—vast deposits of chrysotile asbestos in Quebec Province, Canada—starting some 60 miles north of the Vermont border with the Jeffrey Mine in the French-Canadian town of “Asbestos” and heading northeast 50 miles to Thetford Mines, Quebec. These Canadian mines were among the largest in the world and they dwarfed U.S. production of asbestos (historically, the U.S. produced enough asbestos for roughly 10% of its manufacturing needs and imported the rest from Canada, Russia, and South Africa).
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