The Sydney law firm, Stephen Smart and Associates, is reportedly assembling possible actions by members of the mainly indigenous community in Baryulgil, a township west of Grafton in New South Wales, according to the Australian newspaper.

An asbestos mine employing mostly local Aboriginal miners, operated in the town from the 1940s until 1979.

It was run by a subsidiary of James Hardie, Asbestos Mines Pty Ltd.

The community is seeking more than A$50m in compensation for victims now suffering asbestos-related illnesses.

However, company spokesman James Rickards said James Hardie is not responsible for the liabilities of an independently-run subsidiary.

“The mine was run by Asbestos Mines Pty Ltd, not James Hardie Industries Ltd,” Mr Rickard told the Australian.

New South Wales Premier Bob Carr has hit back at the company.

“If a former James Hardie asbestos subsidiary was responsible for the exposure to asbestos of people from Baryulgil who are now suffering asbestos diseases or who in the future develop asbestos diseases, then the government would expect James Hardie to provide compensation,” the Premier was quoted as saying.

A mobile screening program held in Baryulgil earlier this month examined around 200 people for asbestos-related conditions.

The chief medical officer of the NSW Dust Diseases Board, joint coordinator of the so called Lung Bus, said preliminary results showed many of those screened in the town had asbestos illnesses.

“We have received instructions from well over 100 people and expect there will be many more. We are currently considering a range of actions against a number of defendants in a variety of jurisdictions,” barrister David Baran told the Australian.

In a landmark compensation agreement was hammered out in December, James Hardie agreed to fund a multi-billion dollar Special Purpose Fund for asbestos victims.

But it would appear the compensation fight for claimants in Baryulgil is just beginning.