Asbestos minerals are found in the serpentinized ultramafic bodies. The larger bodies are composed of central cores of massive dunite and peridotite which grade outward to massive or sheared serpentinite. Chrysotile asbestos occurs as cross-fiber veins in the more massive portions of the ultramafic bodies and as slip-fibers in the highly sheared serpentinites (Ratte, 1982).
Asbestos was first discovered about 1824 by lumbermen working on Belvidere Mountain. Small prospects continued to be worked for a century. In 1901, the first company to mine asbestos, New England Asbestos Mining and Milling Company, organized with the purpose of exploring what was then called Cotton Rock in Eden, Vermont. Prior to the company’s organization, most asbestos was mined and milled in Canada.
The Ruberoid Company bought the Belvidere Mountain mine in 1936. By this time, the Eden mine was the only operating chrysotile asbestos mine in the country, encompassing 1700 acres of asbestos deposits on Belvidere Mountain (Eden and Lowell). When Ruberoid took over, the first modern, large scale development began (Crane, 1954). In 1967, the company merged with General Aniline and Film Corporation and became known as GAF Corporation.
By 1973, health issues regarding the mining and use of asbestos came into public focus. Only two years later, GAF announced that the Eden mine would cease its operations. An economic feasibility study had determined that the estimated $1 million cost to retrofit the plant for the required environmental dust control equipment made further operation of the mine unprofitable (Wallace, 1990).
That same year, mine workers raised $2 million and took control of the plant from GAF (Clairborne, 1976). The new company was called the Vermont Asbestos Group (VAG). The serpentine is blasted loose from the quarry face and then trucked to the mill where the fibers are separated from the rock. Vermont ranked second in the manufacturing of asbestos to California, the only other state that produces asbestos. (Note 2005: The mine closed in 1993. Asbestos mining no longer occurs in Vermont.)