The CFMEU has predicted that 16 per cent of coal mine workers will have the deadly black lung as it is revealed that hundreds of thousands of x-rays have not been processed.
The respiratory disease, caused by excessive exposure to coal dust, was thought to have been eradicated decades ago, but the union has said there could be at least 1000 current and retired workers infected.
Since 1993, Queensland coal miners must receive a pre-employment chest x-ray, followed by one every five years while they work in the mining industry. Copies of these scans are supposed to be sent to the Department of Mines, but according to ABC’s 7.30 report last week, the department has admitted that 150,000 x-rays had not been filed.
George McCrohan, a 75-year-old retired miner, worked in the industry for 40 years and in the past six years his health has rapidly deteriorated.
According to the ABC report, Mr McCrohan did not receive any x-rays while working in the industry.
“No, I never got an x-ray while I was working in the mine. I never had an x-ray… Not one,” Mr McCrohen told the reporter.
Another retired coal miner, Keith Stoddart, stopped working at Anglo American’s Grasstree Mine, near Middlemount, last year when he was experiencing a shortness of breath. He has since been diagnosed with black lung, with only 50 per cent of his lung function remaining.
Unlike Mr McCrohan, he did have x-rays throughout his career. But they are nowhere to be found.
“Where the bloody hell are these X-rays, you know? Get ’em all and get these f**kin’ things read. I get just – I don’t know. I get crankier and crankier. I try not to even think too much about it ’cause the more I think about it, the crankier I get,” Mr Stoddart said on the ABC program.
CFMEU Mining District President Stephen Smyth said there’s “no light at the end of the tunnel”.
“What we’re projecting is that we’re going to have 16 per cent of current and retired coal mine workers with pneumoconiosis,” CFMEU industry health and safety representative Jason Hill said.
“It’s been supposedly eradicated for 30 years, but it hasn’t been eradicated at all, it’s been hidden, covered up. We haven’t got the people qualified to do it.”
A Senate inquiry into the re-emergence of the fatal respiratory disease among underground coal miners in Queensland started earlier this week.
For the full 7.30 report transcript, click here.