The return of the deadly Black Lung disease has seen Central Queensland mine workers walk off site as concerns for their health arise.
Four Queensland miners, including two employed at Vale’s Carborough Downs mine, have been diagnosed with the deadly disease, also known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis.
Black Lung is caused by inhalation of coal dust, which has built up in the lungs and is unable to be removed by the body, leading to inflammation, fibrosis, and in some cases, necrosis.
CFMEU Queensland District President Steve Smyth said the resurgence of the disease has sent shock waves through the mining community.
“Workers will walk off mines today for their own health. Right now we don’t know how far this disease has spread and continuing to work in conditions that cause Black Lung will put more peoples lives at risk,” said Mr Smyth.
While welcoming the Minister’s announcement of a review of outstanding medical records and current procedures, the union will be seeking an open and public inquiry and Mr Smyth said said that all issues that led to health issues need to be examined.
“We need to shine a light on where the failings in the system are. Whether that’s regulation, or safety short cuts by mining companies,” he said.
“A public inquiry will give an opportunity for victims, experts, and those in the regulatory process to voice their views publicly.”
The CFMEU is calling for public hearings in Brisbane as well as in communities and towns affected by this deadly disease.
One of the most damning revelations has been the release of a 1983 report from the Mines Department showing black lung still existed in the 1980s, with 75 cases identified but covered up.
“The workers involved in that report have never received the treatment they need, and only now are we discovering this as we sit on the edge of another outbreak,” Mr Smyth said.
“Hopefully we have moved on from this era of secrecy and will now have a full public and open process to air grievances and identify the solutions that will eradicate this disease for good.”
Earlier this week, it was revealed a report from the Queensland Government’s Health Improvement and Awareness Committee showed local authorities do not have the required qualifications to read and interpret x-rays of coal mine workers, leading to a backlog of 100,000 x-rays to be reviewed.