Three new cases of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis have been revealed by the CFMEU this week, just weeks after the disease killed one of them – a retired miner.
The mining union said Mines Department are aware of the cases, but they are yet to be publicly announced, including one victim who sadly has passed away.
A retired miner who worked in Ipswich mines died on 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 check by international expert Dr Bob Cohen and 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,” Mr Smyth said.
“Given BHP and other companies have already knocked back worker 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.”
Mr Smyth said the time had come for more serious and immediate action from the government, focused 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,” he said.
“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’s legal dust limits are a high 3mg per cubic metre, compared to New South Wales’ 2.5mg per cubic metre, and the United States’ 1.5mg per cubic metre.