Fifth black lung case diagnosed in Queensland

Centrilobular_emphysema_865_lores.jpg

The Queensland black lung toll continues to climb, with a fifth case diagnosed by a US specialist.

An unnamed Middlemount man in his 60s, who had been working underground since the 1970s, stopped working at the Grasstree Mine last week after he was diagnosed with the symptoms of black lung by Dr Robert Cohen, an expert in the field of coal worker’s lung diseases.

CFMEU district president Steve Smyth said the man was referred to medical specialists in Brisbane, however official diagnosis was provided by Dr Cohen.

"It's not been picked up by a local radiologist or a local doctor, it's still at a stage where (diagnosis) has to be done by a specialist," Smyth said.

"From my perspective, it just shows the system's failed."

Representatives from mining companies, unions and stakeholders will meet on Thursday to talk about a review of the x-ray examination process.

The review will be headed by Professor Malcolm Sim from the Monash University Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health.

Sim said he would propose a check of around 100 x-rays of long-term coal workers, to be completed by mid-2016.

In December coal miners in Queensland walked off site at Anglo American’s Grasstree mine and Glencore’s Oaky Creek mineover the re-emergence of black lung in the industry.

Workers were reportedly threatened with sacking in order to get them to return to work, a move which was slammed by CFMEU representatives.

"After what we've learnt this week about the re-emergence of Black Lung, forcing workers back down underground against their wishes shows a stunning disregard for Australian employees health and safety," Smyth said.

Black lung, or coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, was thought to have been eradicated from the Australian coal industry more than 20 years ago, with no new cases reported in NSW since 1972 thanks to the implementation of stringent dust control measures.