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Bell Asbestos Mines

Bell Asbestos Mines operated for decades in Canada, producing large quantities of asbestos for a number of industries. The mines were owned and operated by various companies over the years, including British asbestos products manufacturer Turner & Newell Company. The mines caused a lot of damage to people who were exposed to the natural asbestos.

But many of the companies that owned Bell mines or were owned by the parent company also caused harm by making products that contained asbestos. Turner & Newell faced a number of lawsuits over asbestos exposure and mesothelioma that forced the company to reorganize and declare bankruptcy. It contributed to an asbestos trust fund as part of the bankruptcy protection agreement, under the Federal-Mogul Asbestos Trust.

Company History

The original Bell Asbestos Mines have a long history that begins in the 1870s in Quebec. The mines and the operating company were based in Thetford, Quebec, where naturally-occurring asbestos exists. By 1936, the Bell mines were owned by a company called Keasbey and Mattison, which the same year was acquired by the British company, Turner & Newell. This company was founded in England in 1871. It began as a textile company and was one of the first companies to industrialize the use of asbestos by weaving fibers of the mineral into textiles.

Turner & Newell saw great success with asbestos products and over the years it acquired a number of companies that mined asbestos, like Bell mines, or that manufactured products using asbestos. These included cement companies, textile companies, insulation companies, and many others. Bell Asbestos Mines was just one part of this large company, but it was operated as a separate company and it was responsible for extracting much of the asbestos that was used in so many industries.

Through a series of buying and selling, Bell Asbestos Mines would end up acquiring a product called Sprayed Asbestos Limpet, which would eventually add to the company’s asbestos woes and litigation. This product was a spray-on asbestos insulation and fire retardant that would eventually be found to be one of the most harmful types of asbestos products. In 1998, Turner & Newell, along with all subsidiaries, including Bell, was acquired by Federal-Mogul, a Michigan-based automotive parts company. Federal-Mogul was then faced with all of the asbestos liabilities from Bell and filed for Chapter 11 in 2001.

Asbestos Use

Bell Asbestos Mines extracted asbestos from the earth, and only later did the company have responsibility for an asbestos product, the Sprayed Limpet Asbestos. The mine produced asbestos to supply industries around the world for decades. The Sprayed Limpet Asbestos was a product that was designed to provide fireproofing and insulation in a format that was easy and quick to apply. Workers would simply spray it onto the surfaces that needed insulating, up to a depth of a few inches, and the job was done. Unfortunately, by spraying asbestos products, the fibers of the mineral were able to become airborne much more easily, putting workers and others in harm’s way.

Exposure to Asbestos

Because Bell Asbestos Mines produced the raw material that went into so many industries, it was at the bottom of a long chain of exposure and resulting illness. People who were exposed to asbestos over years of working with it or living near a facility that used it, were put at an increased risk of developing deadly illnesses including mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, and other types of cancer. The fibers of asbestos are light and tiny and easily float into the air where people can inhale them without even realizing it. Once in the body, these fibers lodge in tissues and cause damage over many years.

Anyone who worked or lived around asbestos that came from the Bell mines could have been at risk for this kind of harm. However, in terms of liability, Bell was considered responsible for the exposure caused by the spray-on insulation and fire retardant. Insulation workers, who sprayed it directly onto construction surfaces were at risk of inhaling the fibers, but so were other construction workers who were in the vicinity: carpenters, plumbers, electricians, HVAC workers, painters, and other workers.

Residents near the Bell mines were also at risk of being exposed to asbestos. When asbestos is mined, the fibers can come lose and contaminate nearby air, soil, and water. Anyone living in the area of Thetford, Quebec was put at risk. Additionally, the mine dumped tons of waste in the area, spreading the contamination even farther into the surrounding area.

Asbestos Lawsuits against Bell

For decades, until the Environmental Protection Agency put in place restrictions on asbestos use, Bell Asbestos Mines continued to extract asbestos and provide it to industries that would use it around the world. Because of this and because of the spray-on asbestos insulation, Bell and its parent companies faced a number of lawsuits as people who were exposed began to show signs of illness and received devastating diagnoses. Turner & Newell, and then Federal-Mogul, had to act on these lawsuits over Bell and the other subsidiaries that produced asbestos products.

Asbestos Trust Fund

Because of the accumulation of asbestos-related lawsuits, especially those related to Bell’s Limpet spray-on insulation, Federal-Mogul was forced to seek bankruptcy protection and to reorganize beginning in 2001. Not only did Federal-Mogul face the costs of all these lawsuits related to Bell’s mines and insulation, it also had to handle all of the cases directed at the many other Turner & Newell subsidiaries. The company had found success with asbestos products, but when the tide turned on asbestos, it had to pay up.

As a part of the reorganization efforts, Federal-Mogul was required to set up an asbestos trust fund. Called the Federal Mogul Personal Injury Trust, the trust fund was set up to cover all the current and future claims made by valid victims of asbestos exposure and related illnesses. The company only emerged from bankruptcy in 2007 and the trust fund did not become active until 2011. If you were exposed to asbestos because of Bell Asbestos Mines, you can file your claim with the Federal Mogul Personal Injury Trust. The process can be complicated and confusing, so rely on a lawyer experienced with asbestos litigation to help you get through it and get the compensation you deserve.

Page edited by Dave Foster

Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.

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