Section of a coal worker's lung showing black lung disease with progressive massive fibrosis.Contributed
Section of a coal worker's lung showing black lung disease with progressive massive fibrosis.Contributed Contributed

Black lung blamed for death

MINING union CFMEU claims a retired miner has died of black lung disease.

A spokesman said the man, whose family wished to keep his identity anonymous, died on July 31. He said the man was one of three new cases of black lung the union had been made aware of.

Black lung disease, or coalworker's pneumoconiosis, is caused by coal dust inhalation and was thought to have been eradicated in Queensland for decades until cases began emerging late last year.

The CFMEU claims there are now more than 30 cases of black lung, "including the 18 cases revealed through the sample of 248 cases checked by international expert Dr Bob Cohen".

CFMEU district president Steve Smyth said the number of cases was "escalating".

CFMEU’s Steve Smyth.
CFMEU’s Steve Smyth. Tony Martin

"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.

Mr Smyth said the State Government should reduce the legal dust limit in coal mines and enforce legal limits with independent monitoring.

"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."

"Self-regulation has proved an absolute disaster," he added.

"And it is now costing dozens of miners their lives and many more their health.

"This situation needs to be ended now and not put off to some other time down the track."

Mr Smyth claimed that there were "many more" than 30 black lung sufferers, but they were "too afraid to come forward for fear of losing their job and everything else with it".

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Dr Anthony Lynham said the official department tally was 13 cases.

A case is confirmed by the department when it has been reported to its Health Surveillance Unit by a nominated medical advisor or another medical expert.

This diagnosis is then validated by the department's occupational physician.



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