A sixth black lung case has been confirmed in Queensland, with a 51-year-old electrician diagnosed last week.
The diagnosis comes just days after Minister Dr Anthony Lynham announced a five-point plan to tackle coal miners health.
CFMEU Mining and Energy Division District President, Stephen Smyth, said that he was pleased with the minister’s commitment to address the issue, but reiterated the union’s insistence on an open public inquiry.
“It looks like the penny has finally dropped and the union welcomes today’s meeting as a positive start of the long fight to get to the bottom of this issue.” Mr Smyth said.
“But it is critical that the review being carried out is opened up to the public via hearings – particularly in mining communities who are reeling from this problem – and the opportunity for concerned individuals and organisations to make open submissions.
“Most important, the Government needs to look very closely at the regulation which provides for the management of dust levels in mines.
“In the past few years we have seen dust levels at Queensland mines well above the legal limit according to the Government’s own reports, which is totally unacceptable. It seems that this is what happens when you leave it to mining companies to monitor and manage dust.
“While there are concerns about the response to Black Lung from a health perspective, we can’t forget that prevention is the only way to address this issue.”
He said the union will continue to insist that a full public and open inquiry looks at how we ended up with a return of Black Lung disease, and how to better manage dust levels. The union is also calling for the Government to make six clear commitments to address the issue:
- New legislation requiring dust levels to be monitored and publicly reported by an independent statutory body – identifying individual mines by name and company.
- Ensure “B Readers” qualified to internationally recognized ILO standards review all x-rays taken of coalmine workers and fund a training programme in industry best practises for coal dust controls.
- Immediately clear the backlog of more than 100,000 outstanding worker medicals.
- Healthcare and screening to be extended into workers’ who have been retrenched or retired.
- Identify other at-risk workers by randomly sampling those with 10 + years service in the mining industry and performing checks.
- A community information and outreach program to encourage people in mining communities to be checked.
Mr Smyth said the Government’s recent commitments announced on Thursday were a positive step, but more needs to be done
“Black Lung is the most serious health and safety condition affecting coal mineworkers in decades, and the outbreak is still escalating. While we continue to push for solutions to finally eradicate this insidious deadly disease, we are asking people who have any concerns about their health, or the health of their loved ones who have worked in the mines, to get in touch with the union so we can provide assistance.”
People with concerns or who want to join the campaign to make Black Lung history can also visit the website for more information at www.dusttodust.org.au.