Asbestos, Qué, Town, pop 6819 (2006c), 6580 (2001c), inc 1937. Asbestos is located in the Lower Appalachian plateau 63 km north of Sherbrooke and 55 km southeast of Drummondville. Evan William, a prospector, discovered an Asbestos deposit in 1879 at the current mine location, then owned by Charles Webb. The site has been mined ever since, starting with William Jeffrey in 1881, and was expanded by John Manville Co (1905-83) and by JM Asbestos Inc (since 1983). With a depth of 350 m and an area of 6 km2, the Jeffrey mine is the largest open-face asbestos mine in the world. The mill has an annual capacity of 650 million kg, but production has decreased substantially due to health problems identified with the mineral. In spite of that, a new underground mine will be in operation in 2000.
On 14 February 1949 a strike of asbestos industry workers began that involved 5000 miners, lasted for 120 working days and became a turning point in Québec's social history (see Asbestos Strike).
The mine's steady growth has transformed the town's landscape; some streets and homes were eliminated in 1975 to allow further industrial development. The added presence of wood product and electrical equipment manufacturers has enabled Asbestos to become the major economic centre of Richmond County. The town has a mineralogy and mining history museum.