Mining giant Xstrata has been condemned by environmental campaigners for its failure to release 1999 data quantifying the impacts of mining operations on lead levels in the Mount Isa area.
Geoscientist Dr Niels Munksgaard from Charles Darwin University said the data went missing after it was originally submitted to a panel including the Queensland government and Mount Isa Mines (MIM), the mine owner at the time.
Along with CSIRO scientists, Munksgaard was part of a research team commissioned by MIM to study the mine's impact on the local area.
The Australian newspaper reported the data cover-up in late May, following Munksgaard's revelation that the team's final report, published online by the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, did not include crucial data assessing the presence of metals from mining operations in the surrounding environment.
When contacted by Green Left Weekly, Munksgaard said the data had been resent to Xstrata in late May, following media reportage of the cover-up.
"The report has gone to Xstrata, which owns the data, and can only be released to the public with Xstrata's permission", he said.
Munksgaard said the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency had a responsibility to pursue Xstrata for the information. "I have done my part to bring this to light", he continued.
In a May 30 interview on ABC Radio National's The World Today, Munksgaard said that the data had been deliberately removed from a report into the added metals in the Mount Isa area due to mining operations.
"It was taken out of the original report. When you take that data set out, what you have left is a panel assessing a base metal mine without doing any analysis of metals. I mean that is absurd, clearly", Munksgaard told The World Today.
Recent tests found that 11% of children in Mount Isa have lead levels more than three times the maximum safe limit set by the World Health Organisation.