Mineral Facts and Problems: 1960 Edition Page: 77
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By D. O. Kennedy'
AROCK that can be spun into yarn and fashioned into unburnable cloth-
ing is unique among minerals. Chrysotile asbestos has that distinction,
but the manufacture of heat-resistant textiles is only one of a multitude
of uses that range from pot holders to automobile brakeband linings and from
stove wicks to roofing shingles.
Asbestos is a mineral that has many uses,
some of which are of primary defense impor-
tance. The United States is the largest user
of asbestos in the world, but produces a mere
fraction of its requirements. The major part
of the U.S. supply originates in Canada, but
two types-crocidolite and amosite-are pro-
duced, the first predominantly and the other
exclusively, in the Union of South Africa.
Amosite has important applications in the
defense program. Crocidolite has important
industrial uses that are less directly related to
defense problems. Bolivian crocidolite was of
strategic importance in the past, but because
of the development of satisfactory substitutes
the situation is no longer critical. Low-iron
chrysotile suitable for use in electric-cable con-
struction was in short supply during World
War II and for some years thereafter, but the
discovery of a large deposit of suitable fiber in
British Columbia, Canada, has relieved the sit-
uation. There has been a threatened, and at
times an actual, shortage of Canadian and sim-
ilar fibers of spinning grade.
The major problem in asbestos is the extreme
dependence of the United States upon foreign
sources of supply. Other problems are the lack
of a commercially satisfactory substitute for
amosite, current lack of interchangeability of
the various types of asbestos, the occasional
shortages of spinning fibers, and waste disposal.
SIZE, ORGANIZATION, AND GEOGRAPHIC
DISTRIBUTION OF THE INDUSTRY
To comprehend properly the asbestos indus-
try, it must be viewed from a world standpoint,
because, although the United States is the
world's leading manufacturer of asbestos prod-
ucts, domestic sources furnish only 6 to 8 per-
cent of the raw asbestos needed. Most of the
U.S. supply is obtained in Canada, but im-
portant quantities, particularly of special
kinds and grades, originate in southern Africa
The Province of Quebec, Canada, has the
largest mines and mills in the world. The
U.S.S.R. is next in importance as a producer.
Southern Rhodesia, the Union of South Africa,
Swaziland, Cyprus, and the United States are
substantial producers, and smaller supplies
originate in many countries. The variety
chrysotile constitutes about 95 percent of the
world supply, and unless otherwise designated
the data herein relate to chrysotile.
Total world production in 1958 was about
2 million short tons of all grades and varieties.
Of this total, Canada produced 46 percent, the
U.S.S.R. 27 percent (est.), the Union of South
Africa 9 percent, Southern Rhodesia 6 percent,
the United States 2 percent, Italy 2 percent,
and Swaziland 1 percent. The Soviet indus-
SAssistant Chief, Branch of Construction and Chemical Materials.
2 Italicized numbers in parentheses refer to items in the bibliography at end of chapter.
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United States. Bureau of Mines. Mineral Facts and Problems: 1960 Edition, report, 1960; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc38790/m1/85/: accessed July 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.