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Issue #1745      August 24, 2016

Self-regulation a disaster

More Black Lung victims revealed

The mining union has been made aware of a further three cases of Black Lung disease victims which the Mines Department has been made aware of, but are yet to be publicly announced, including one victim who sadly has passed away.

A retired miner who worked in Ipswich mines died on Sunday July 31 bringing the total number of cases of Black Lung disease to more than 30, including the 18 cases revealed through the sample of 248 cases checked by international expert Dr Bob Cohen; and 11 cases confirmed by the Department.

CFMEU Mining and Energy division Queensland District President Steve Smyth said the number would continue to rise until serious steps are taken to address dust levels in underground coal mines.

“There are many more out there with the disease but they are too afraid to come forward for fear of losing their job and everything else with it,” Smyth said.

“Given BHP and other companies have already knocked back workers’ compensation claims from Black Lung disease victims, many of the workers simply don’t think it is worth the risk to come forward and are soldiering on in the mines instead.

“This is a crisis and the union has been warning the numbers will skyrocket for some time – that is starting to happen now but unfortunately we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg.”

Smyth said the time had come for more serious and immediate action from the government, focussed on reducing the legal dust limit in coal mines.

“We know that mining companies are afraid of having independent inspectors coming in to check dust levels and you don’t have to be a genius to figure out why – they’re simply not operating at legal levels and they don’t want to.

“People will continue to get Black Lung disease until we reduce dust levels in Queensland coal mines and stop this crazy situation where mining companies who caused this problem get to control the monitoring and compliance regime.”

Queensland mines have higher permissible legal dust limits (3mg per cubic metre) compared with New South Wales (2.5mg per cubic metre), and the United States (1.5mg per cubic metre).

In the twelve months since the return of Black Lung disease was made public, there has been no change to the legal dust limit; nor to the self-regulation of dust levels that have led to this problem.

“We want to see the Queensland government act to end the self-regulation of dust levels because mining companies have breached the community’s trust.

“Self-regulation has proved an absolute disaster and is now costing dozens of miners their lives and many more their health. It needs to be ended now and not put off to some other time down the track”.

Next article – Brazil – Push to reverse gains

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