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Current issues with purported asbestos content of talc: Hydrothermal-hosted talc ores in southwest Montana

Transactions of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration , 2017, Vol. 342, No. 1, pp. 62-71

Buzon, M.E.; Gunter, M.E.


Talc has been the focus of recent civil litigation based on claims that asbestos minerals exist in talc deposits and therefore have caused asbestos-related diseases in those who have regularly used talc products. Such litigation, and ensuing confusion over the petrology and asbestos content of these deposits, challenges the talc mining industry in Montana and elsewhere in the world. The talc deposits in southwest Montana were formed by hydrothermal alteration of dolomitic marbles and are still actively mined. In general, talc formed by hydrothermal alteration of preexisting carbonate rocks is known to be nearly monomineralic and lacking in amphiboles. This paper includes data from analyses of representative ore samples from this mining region in southwest Montana. The results conclude that the presence of asbestos minerals — both amphiboles and chrysotile — is unlikely and that the ores are nearly monomineralic, as expected. Samples were characterized using a suite of analytical methods, namely, powder X-ray diffraction, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and electron microprobe analyses, which allowed us to determine the minerals present and the formation process. Our data and interpretations suggest that previous identification of asbestos minerals in these deposits is not accurate.