Named after the town of Thetford in Norfolk, England, Thetford Mines is located on the Bécancour River in the Appalachians, 107 km (66 miles) south of Québec City and about 300 km (186 miles) northeast of Montréal. Thetford Mines is the administrative center of the regional county municipality of Amiante.
The discovery of large asbestos deposits in 1876 gave start to the mining activities and founding of the city. First named Kingsville after William King, an important mine owner, it grew rapidly as the mines attracted people from other areas.
The city got its present name in 1905. In 2001 it merged with Black Lake, Robertsonville, Pontbriand and Thetford-Sud. Called the Asbestos Capital of the World, Thetford Mines is the largest production center for this mineral in the Western world with both underground and open-face mines in operation.
Chromium and feldspar mining, saw milling, and fiberglass manufacturing are other commercial activities in Thetford Mines. The city’s factories also produce trailers, snowmobiles, mining equipment and plastic materials. Thetford Mines is now a leader in Quebec in the field of such cutting-edge technologies as oleochemistry. Thetford Mines is a student city: nearly 1,200 students attend Collège de Thetford every year. Other colleges include Centre collégial de transfert technologique spécialisé en oléochimie industrielle and Centre de technologie minérale et de plasturgie.
The city is famous for its Mineralogy and Mining Museum that showcases mineral, rock and fossil collections, as well as mining equipment highlighting the geological heritage and mining history of the Appalachian Mountains. The museum's collection contains more than 10,000 objects and specimens.
In addition, an outdoor agora allows visitors to discover a mining landscape, a mineral garden, and an impressive sculpture Hommage aux gobeuses (Homage to Cobbers) by Pierre Bourgault-Legros. If you visit the city today, you will take a walk along the unusual streets built between the mines and the asbestos tailings. Tourists can enjoy outdoor activities any season: from golf and curling to downhill and cross-country skying, from byking and hiking to having a great time at a go-cart center.
The area is also a popular destination for 4-wheel drive vehicles for off-road mudding during the rainy season. The current Governor General of Canada Michaëlle Jean, after arriving in Canada from Haiti with her family as a child, originally settled in Thetford Mines. “Thetford Mines has made the most of its mineralogical heritage and has profited from it. It now wears its history with pride.
Facing the future with determination, the asbestos region has become the region of mines and lakes, booming with tourism and industry.” (Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean in her speech on the occasion of a visit to Thetford Mines City Hall)