Former worker blames cancer on Xstrata smelter

A former Mount Isa Mines worker has lodged a complaint against Xstrata after he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Ernest Tanna was diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year, and claims that it was caused by his exposure to hazardous materials during his time at the lead smelter, according to the North West Star.

Tanna worked as a trade assistant at the site between 1973 and 1980.

He is also claiming against his other former work places – sugar mills and the Johnstone Shire Council, stating that he was exposed to high levels of asbestos.

Tanna claims that he was not provided with adequate safety equipment during his tenure at his workplaces, and was not informed about asbestos or its dangers.

"I would come home covered in dust from head to toe," he said.

"If I had have known about the dangers of asbestos back then, I wouldn't have gone anywhere near it.

"I was just doing my job and getting paid to do it, and now my life has been thrown into chaos and I'm concerned for my wife and family."

His lawyers, Slater and Gordon, stated that "Tanna is one of many former employees who worked both above and below ground at the mine and was exposed to asbestos insulation materials as frequently as on a daily basis".

Tanna is reportedly one of a number of former Mount Isa Mines workers who have contacted the law firm after being diagnosed with the disease.

An Xstrata spokesperson told Australian Mining that “we’ve received a claim and it is being managed as required under the Workers Compensation Act“.

The number of asbestos related incidents has dropped dramatically within the mining industry over the past two decades, however the incidence of asbestos related diseases have risen due to the fact that asbestosis often takes 30 to 40 years to develop.

Earlier this year the West Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum was called in to investigate evidence of asbestos contamination in a landfill at Rio Tinto's West Angelas iron ore mine.

A Rio spokesperson confirmed the appearance of asbestos at the site, adding that the levels were below safety exposure limits, and that all workers were immediately informed of the discovery.

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