Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Miner’s Myth

By Mark Patrick Taylor & Louise Kristensen

Several myths have been propagated to counter compelling evidence for community health issues arising from mining and smelting operations in Mount Isa and Broken Hill.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Ore extraction and processing results in elevated levels of toxic metals around lead mining and smelting operations, causing adverse health effects, particularly in children. Despite this, resource companies and government agencies have constructed “myths” that downplay potential exposure risks as well as any responsibility arising from them. The issuing of statements such as the following are commonplace: contaminants are naturally occurring, the wind blows emissions away from residential areas, contaminants are not bioavailable, contamination is a legacy issue, or children have been exposed to lead from paint, petrol, or from eating fishing sinkers.

When independent research challenges such arguments, the typical modus operandi is to attack the messenger – that is, the scientist. Our studies of the sources, causes and human health risks of environmental pollution have been subjected to several such non-factual distracting criticisms, including: “Mr Taylor is a left-wing greenie trying to shut down mining”; “the researcher must work in hospital-like conditions”; “this gentleman has a history of writing such reports”; and “the smelter is contributing $1.6 billion into the state economy – what is Professor Mark Taylor contributing?”

The “miner’s myth” that environmental contamination in mining and smelting towns is naturally occurring can be a difficult...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.