Mines play an integral part in the United States economy. Mines contain many natural resources, including coal, iron, lead, and many other valuable minerals. Unfortunately, mines also contain asbestos, a toxic mineral that can cause severe and fatal diseases, such as:

  • mesothelioma (a rare cancer that affects the lining surrounding the lungs)
  • asbestosis (a respiratory disorder caused by lung tissue scarring)
  • lung cancer
  • esophageal, stomach, colon, or rectum cancer


Why Asbestos was Mined

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that was extensively mined during the early 20th century. Because asbestos is durable, flexible, and fire and heat resistant, asbestos was used in manufacturing over 3,000 products, including:

  • building materials
  • textiles
  • automobiles
  • pipes
  • household items

Dangers of Asbestos Exposure in Mines

Asbestos is extremely dangerous when its fibers are inhaled. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they remain lodged in the body causing inflammation and scarring, which can eventually lead to serious illnesses.

When mine workers excavate asbestos, asbestos fibers are released into the air. Because mines are poorly ventilated and most mine workers wore no protective clothing or respiratory equipment before the 1980s, many mine workers inhaled airborne asbestos fibers. Now, many of those mine workers are falling ill with asbestos-related diseases. 

Asbestos Mine in Libby, Montana

Vermiculite, an ore resembling mica, is used in housing insulation. Originally, experts believed Vermiculite was a safe alternative to asbestos; however, experts determined that Vermiculite contains tremolite, a toxic form of asbestos.

From 1924-1990, more than 80% of the world’s Vermiculite supply was mined in the Zonolite Mountain in Libby, Montana. The Libby Mine supplied Vermiculite to more than 60 processing plants. By the time the federal agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry determined that Vermiculite exposure is linked to lung scarring, 50% of examined Libby miners had signs of lung scarring.

Regulations on Workplace Asbestos Exposure in Mines

In April 2008, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) passed regulations protecting mine workers from workplace asbestos exposure. The MSHA regulations prohibited employers in the mining industry from exposing workers to asbestos levels above 0.1 fiber per cubic meter of air during an 8-hour shift (other industries allow 0.2 fiber per cubic meter in an 8 hour day). The MSHA regulations, however, did not require employers to provide miners with health exams, hygiene facilities, or protective clothing and gear as required in other occupations where asbestos exposure is prevalent.

Injured Working in a Mine?

If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos while working in a Mine and diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, please contact us today as you may be entitled to compensation.   

Published November 17, 2011 by