The search for asbestos within the Peter Mitchell Taconite iron ore mine, near Babbitt, Minnesota

Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2008 Oct;52(1 Suppl):S43-50. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2007.09.018. Epub 2007 Oct 16.

Abstract

Asbestos crystallizes within rock formations undergoing intense deformation characterized by folding, faulting, shearing, and dilation. Some of these conditions have prevailed during formation of the taconite iron ore deposits in the eastern Mesabi Iron Range of Minnesota. This range includes the Peter Mitchell Taconite Mine at Babbitt, Minnesota. The mine pit is over 8 miles long, up to 1 mile wide. Fifty three samples were collected from 30 sites within areas of the pit where faulting, shearing and folding occur and where fibrous minerals might occur. Eight samples from seven collecting sites contain significant amounts of ferroactinolite amphibole that is partially to completely altered to fibrous ferroactinolite. Two samples from two other sites contain ferroactinolite degraded to ropy masses of fibers consisting mostly of ferrian sepiolite as defined by X-ray diffraction and TEM and SEM X-ray spectral analysis. Samples from five other sites contain unaltered amphiboles, however some of these samples also contain a very small number of fiber bundles composed of mixtures of grunerite, ferroactinolite, and ferrian sepiolite. It is proposed that the alteration of the amphiboles was caused by reaction with water-rich acidic fluids that moved through the mine faults and shear zones. The fibrous amphiboles and ferrian sepiolite collected at the Peter Mitchell Mine composes a tiny fraction of one percent of the total rock mass of this taconite deposit; an even a smaller amount of these mineral fragments enter the ambient air during mining and milling. These fibrous minerals thus do not present a significant health hazard to the miners nor to those non-occupationally exposed. No asbestos of any type was found in the mine pit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asbestos / analysis*
  • Asbestos, Amphibole / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Iron / chemistry*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Mineral Fibers
  • Mining*
  • Minnesota
  • Risk Assessment
  • Silicates / chemistry*
  • X-Ray Diffraction

Substances

  • Asbestos, Amphibole
  • Mineral Fibers
  • Silicates
  • ferroactinolite
  • taconite
  • Asbestos
  • Iron