Queensland’s minister for Natural Resources and Mines Anthony Lynham addressed parliament this week with his concerns about the re-emergence of Black Lung disease in coal mine workers.
There has been an influx in the past year of emerging cases of pneumoconiosis, commonly known as Black Lung, which was thought to have been eradicated in Australia more than 20 years ago.
Black Lung is an irreversible and chronic disease which is caused by the excessive inhalation and deposition of coal dust in the lungs, which causes the scarring of lung tissue.
The number of cases in Queensland currently stands at 14, but the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union of Queensland (CFMEU) believes that there could be dozens more currently undiagnosed.
The Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Mr Lynham met with his state, territory and federal counterparts in Canberra last week to discuss a national strategy.
“This is a disease that develops over time and miners or retired miners may no longer be living in the coal-mining state where they worked,” Mr Lynham told parliament today.
“That is why I am seeking Medicare-funded chest X-rays for coal miners who are retired or otherwise no longer working in the industry,” he said.
A Queensland report into how the state deals with Black Lung found that it holds systemic failures at “virtually all levels” and a government overhaul is in order.
Mr Lynham acknowledged that this review and overhaul will be costly.
“There is an enormous amount of work ahead,” he said.
CFMEU’s Mackay District Representative Steve Smyth, has said that the organisation has been waiting for the re-emergence of this disease.
“This is a crisis and the union has been warning the numbers will sky rocket for some time, that is starting to happen now but unfortunately we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg,” Mr Smyth said.
The union believes the re-emergence of the disease was partly by caused the number of inadequately trained medical advisors conducting health assessments on mining workers.
NSW is also combatting efforts against the current resurgence of Black Lung disease and it is one of the major focuses at NSW Minerals Council’s 2016 Health, Safety, Environment and Community (HSEC) conference.
Today, in the NSW Hunter Valley, the three-day conference is launched and will discuss a range of health and safety issues in the mining industry.