From: Reuters
Published May 21, 2008 11:07 PM

High lead levels in children near Xstrata mine: report

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Forty five children living in the Australian mining town of Mount Isa, where Xstrata Plc produces 4 percent of the world's lead, have blood lead levels above World Health Organization standards, a report said on Thursday.

Swiss-based Xstrata and local and state governments are facing legal action from the parents of a 6-year-old Mount Isa girl who has suffered injuries to her brain and nervous system, allegedly linked to lead exposure from the town's mine.

Xstrata has said it does not expect a curtailment of its lead mining operations at Mount Isa as a result of the Queensland state health department study, which examined 400 children.

The study confirmed preliminary findings released last month that identified high blood lead levels in the children.

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London-listed Xstrata acquired the Mount Isa operations, a complex of mines and smelters churning out millions of metric tons of copper, lead, zinc, coal and silver when it bought MIM Holdings Ltd in 2003. In 2006, Mount Isa produced 210,000 metric tons of zinc in concentrates and 120,000 metric tons of lead in concentrates.

Xstrata has said it is committed to reducing lead emissions from its mine. It currently operates 15 lead monitoring stations around the town and is removing old mine sediment that has contaminated the nearby Leichhardt River.

Mount Isa town, about 1,300 km (800 miles) northwest of the Queensland city of Brisbane, sits directly adjacent to Xstrata's zinc, lead, copper and silver mining operation.

Concerns over lead contamination forced another international mining company, Ivernia Inc of Canada, to idle its Magellan lead mine in Western Australia after lead residue was blamed for killing thousands of birds.

(Reporting by Miochael Perry; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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