Setback for $1 million Mount Isa lead poisoning claim

Mount Isa mum Sharlene Body’s compensation case against mining giant Xstrata has had a setback after the Supreme Court decided to strike out pleadings from her lawyers.

Justice David Boddice said the appeals did not reveal a cause of action against Xstrata Mount Isa mines.

Body launched a $1 million legal action against the Mount Isa City Council and the Queensland Government in 2011 after finding out her son Sidney recorded blood lead levels three times more than the recommended safe limit.

She claims the lead exposure resulted in brain damage and damage of neuropsychological functions.

There are complaints the Mount Isa mining and smelting operations caused lead to be released into the atmosphere, which could have been affected children in the vicinity.

But Justice Boddice said Xstrata had proven Body’s case failed to show a connection between the company’s supposed violation of duty and Sidney Body’s health issues, the Herald Sun reported.  

The verdict could have an impact on other claims lodged against Xstrata by Slater and Gordon for five other children.

One such case is from a Townsville mother, who brought a $1 million lawsuit against the company, alleging her nine-year-old daughter suffered from lead poisoning, resulting in irreversible brain damage.

Slater and Gordon are allowed to re-claim the Body case but practice group leader Ben Whitwell said the law firm is looking at options.

A scientific study appearing in the journal Environmental Pollution last month found a definitive link between mining in Mount Isa and lead contamination in local children.

But Xstrata have always said lead contamination in the city occurs naturally due to what is in the ground.

Investigations at the mine in 2010 found it did not exceed legal levels in the final quarter of 2009.

Lawyers accused Xstrata of being aware of the health hazards of lead emissions, which was ‘reasonably foreseeable’, the court was told.

The court claim also said it was Xstrata’s responsibility to guarantee Sidney’s health safety, and provide his mother with enough warning so she could take precautionary measures.

One part of the claim said absorption of lead and the resulting blood contamination led to brain damage.

But Justice Boddice said there was insufficient proof Sidney’s absorption of lead due to Xstrata’s mining activities was the cause of his health problems.

He said Sidney’s lead absorption could be from other sources of contamination rather than mining at Mount Isa.

Xstrata has had a few claims against its Mount Isa mines by people alleging its activities were the cause of health problems, injuries and diseases.

A former Mount Isa Mines worked claimed he was diagnosed with lung cancer due to exposure to dangerous materials while working at the lead smelter.

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