QLD MINE DUST DISEASE CRISIS: INDEPENDENT DUST MONITORING URGENTLY NEEDED

Independent monitoring of dust levels must be urgently introduced in Queensland to help manage the worsening mine dust disease crisis including black lung and silicosis, CFMEU Mining and Energy said today.

Simtars – the Safety in Mines Testing and Research Station – has the expertise and independence to carry out monitoring in the best interests of workers, said CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland President Stephen Smyth.

“The government has initiated some important measures to address the shocking re-emergence of black lung and other mine dust diseases. In particular, we welcome the reduction in allowable dust levels recently announced.

“But much more action and investment is needed if we are going to stem the growing tide of shocking diagnoses of deadly mine dust lung diseases like ‘black lung’, silicosis and emphysema.

“We need to introduce independence to dust monitoring and medical assessments, to make sure companies can’t cut corners or cover up poor results when it comes to workers’ health.

“In our experience, some companies are doing the right thing and taking dust exposure seriously, while others need to be forced to take responsibility.

“We also need greater protections for workers who are too often thrown on the scrap heap when they receive a dust disease diagnosis.”

The government has invested in a series of initiatives on black lung including medical training and review of mineworkers’ x-rays. While this is welcome, industry must also contribute to the cost of stamping out dust diseases.

“It’s the mining companies who have caused this problem. They have profited greatly from Queensland’s high quality coal resources and neglected to protect workers’ health. It’s not fair that taxpayers should now have to stump up and foot the entire bill.

“That’s why the union supports the call from the Mine Dust Disease Victims Group for a levy on coal mining companies of one cent per tonne per week on Queensland coal towards a fund to support victims.”

Outstanding measures needed to address mine dust disease in Queensland include:

  • Independent dust monitoring in mines by Simtars.
  • Independent medical assessments and respiratory checks for mineworkers.
  • Unannounced inspections by Industry Safety and Health Representatives.
  • Mobile health units to provide X-ray, spirometry and other assessments.
  • Legal protection for affected workers’ employment.
  • A victims assistance fund to cover mine dust lung disease victims’ medical costs and compensation.
  • Recognising mine lung dust disease deaths as work-related fatalities.

Media contact Jackie Woods 0414241483