Friday, 23 May 2008

Qld Govt accused of Mt Isa lead 'cover-up'

The report followed fears about contamination from Xstrata operations.

The Queensland Government has been accused of trying to play down health concerns involving children at Mount Isa.

A new report has confirmed that 11 per cent of the 400 children who were tested in the north-west Queensland mining town have high levels of lead in their blood.

But Queensland Health concedes the exact source of the lead has not been determined.

The State Opposition's health spokesman John Paul Langbroek says the Government held onto the report for too long and orchestrated today's release.

"There are concerns that this could be a cover-up," he said.

"This is something that we've expressed in the Parliament some time ago, that an environmental protection officer quit his job because he tried to express his concerns about these testing results and nothing came of it.

"That was a few years ago and clearly the Government, by saying 'we're just going to test in 2010', is saying we just hope this goes away until 2010.

"They haven't answered what they're going to do for now apart from telling people they shouldn't be playing the the dust."

Mr Langbroek says further investigation and testing is needed.

"I definitely think it should be widened," he said.

"I think that testing is for children between age one to four, and clearly there are about 5,500 children up to 14 and if the results were extrapolated you could have up to 600 children up to the age of 14 who may also have increased lead levels.

Public meeting stacked in favour of Xstrata: lawyer

A lawyer representing a six-year-old girl allegedly exposed to lead in Mount Isa says last nights public meeting was stacked in favour of the mining company.

Damian Scattini's firm, Slater and Gordon, has commenced legal action against mining giant Xstrata, the Queensland Government and the Mount Isa City Council, after his client suffered injuries to her brain and nervous system.

Mr Scattini says some of the residents who spoke at the meeting do not realise the extent of contamination levels in the region.

"Unfortunately as expected it was a PR exercise and really for once they are being accurate," he said.

"They are saying 'living with lead alliance' because that's their solution ... the population should just live with it, just suck it up, that's just a recipe for another generation of children being poisoned, left with brain damage."

MP Betty Kiernan has defended the State Government's handling of the issue, rejecting claims that the Government is working too closely with the mining company.

"We identified that we wanted to work together, more importantly, we do work together," she said.

"That means we have to have an open, honest exchange of information.

"The very mining that is part of our community, is our community, our community works over there at that mine.

"We're not standing back from the fact that we have formed an alliance."

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