Residents of the Tasmanian west coast mining town of Rosebery plan to sue the state's health and environment bodies, as well as mine operator MMG Australia over alleged exposure to toxic contaminates from mining activities.
At the moment there are 28 people who've contacted us who believe they have health problems due to heavy metals while they lived or worked at Rosebery, said Peter Long, of law firm Slater & Gordon.
Since 1914, the underground mine and allied facilities have been active in the extraction and processing of zinc, lead, copper and gold.
Former and current residents claim they have experienced a range of debilitating conditions, from brain and nerve damage to hair loss, skin and dental problems and mood disorders such as depression, aggression and sleeping problems.
The first person to contact Mr Long was Kay Seltitzas, 54 who had lived in Rosebery for 15 years when she started experiencing aching bones, mild hair loss and signs of depression.
She said, Then in January 2006 I woke in hospital where I'd been for about a month.
My lung collapsed. I had brain damage and couldn't talk. I had almost no blood pressure. I nearly died.
Medical experts could not find the cause, said Ms Seltitzas.
No one thought to check for heavy metals, although I lived in a mining town, she said.
When a neighbor's cat became violently ill after drinking water in the garden, residents sought for heavy metal testing and the results showed elevated levels of toxic substances such as lead, cadmium, copper and arsenic.
There have been no legal proceedings lodged to date, but we do understand there are some concerns in the community.
That's why we began environmental sampling last year, to establish a better picture of what's in the Rosebery environment and participate in an intergovernmental and community group set up to determine if there is health risk, said Sally Cox, spokeswoman for MMG.
Residents have criticized toxicology reports prepared for Roscoe Taylor, the director of public health.
Dr Taylor dismissed the complaints yesterday, stating that experts found no evidence to support claims of heavy-metal poisoning.
The findings should provide reassurance to the individuals concerned and the Rosebery community, she said.