Since about the 1870s, the inhabitants of the area of Asbestos, some twenty kilometres northeast of Richmond, were aware of the strange substance which veined the rocks on a hillside known as Webb's Ledge.
In 1881, a Welsh miner Evan Williams, visiting his parents identified the substance as the mineral asbestos, and recognized its commercial value. Mr. W. H. Jeffrey put up the necessary funds to start a mine on the site. The owner of the mine paid a royalty of $10 per ton of fibre produced during the summer and $5 per ton during the winter to Webb, owner of the land. The rate of production raised an annual rate of 2300 tons by 1895. It increased considerably more in the years to come. At first, the derrick used to hoist the ore was powered by a single horse.
Asbestos was blasted and dug out manually with chisels from a shallow open pit. Later, modern production methods were introduces, and operations extended far beneath the earth's surface in a network of underground mines of two kilometres long, 350 metres deep and 6 square kilometres in total area.
The Jeffery Mine is thus the largest open pit asbestos mine in the Western hemisphere. Over the years, the Jeffrey Mine has changed hands several times.
The mine has experienced some serious economic downturns. Not least of them was the result of a falling world demand for asbestos, brought on by health risks associated with the mineral. Today, the mine is the property of JM Asbestos Inc.
The town of Asbestos has grown up alongside the huge mine.