As a third generation coal miner, Queensland District President Steve Smyth finds it heart wrenching to see the trauma caused by black lung. It’s not acceptable that because a worker is in a hazardous industry that it should be par for the course to get the disease. You go to work, not to die. That is why we are fighting for better regulation of the industry and justice for victims.

Black lung is back

Dust levels in some coal mines around the country are way above the legal limit. Much like the deadly asbestosis a decade ago, excessive coal dust builds up in the lungs, causing Black Lung disease, which slowly kills its victims.

In the 1960s, a system was set up to monitor health issues affecting coalmine workers, but that system has broken down as governments and businesses fail to limit dust levels or carry out health checks for workers.

For decades it was believed that Black Lung disease (coal workers pneumoconiosis) had been eradicated.

But in 2015, the first Australian coal miner in 30 years was diagnosed with Black Lung disease.

Since then, over 80 cases of Black Lung and other mine dust lung diseases have been confirmed in Queensland.

Black Lung was here all along. It was just being ignored.

Coal mineworkers have been let down:

  • by the mining companies who failed to provide safe workplaces
  • by company doctors who didn’t diagnose their work-related diseases
  • and by state governments, which haven’t enforced proper regulation of the industry.

Our Union campaign has delivered some wins improving health monitoring and lowering dust levels in coal mines.

But with reported cases of mine dust lung diseases forecast to rapidly increase, there’s much more to do.

We are fighting to keep workers safe; and for justice for current and future victims.