Miner dies from Black Lung, CFMEU claims

A former miner has died due to complications from Black Lung, the CFMEU has claimed.

It comes as 11 miners have been diagnosed with the disease, known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis.

Last month 18 miners were retested for the disease following US reviews of the x-rays, after they were found to have traces of Black Lung which were missed in Australian scans.

Now the CFMEU believe a former miner, one of three new cases brought to its attention recently, has passed away from the disease, according to The Morning Bulletin.

On the back of this, the mining union also claims there are likely 30 yet to be confirmed cases of the disease, including the previously mentioned 18.

CFMEU district president Steve Smyth believes the number of black lung cases will only escalate, with a miner as young as 39 identified with the disease to date.

“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,” he told the Bulletin.

Smyth also called for the QLD Government to act in enforcing stricter coal dust limits and independent monitoring, as well as more training for doctors who assess the health of coal workers.

He said mining companies were incapable of enforcing limits internally, “Self regulation has proved an absolute disaster.”

“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.”

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.

Currently, there are 237 nominated medical advisors, including occupational physicians and GP’s, registered to conduct the health assessments, which the union says is nearly 30 times too many.

The Sim review into Black Lung suggested a smaller number of doctors for the assessments; the union said it should be no more than eight, but more highly trained, as there is currently no formal system for assessing or training the doctors.

The review found that out of 256 lung function test samples, 40 per cent were poorly conducted by the selected doctors, and 41 per cent of the tests were not accurately interpreted.

The union said these findings should emphasise the need for proper training of all radiographers and doctors who assess coal worker’s health to international standards.

They are also calling for radiologists to be trained in the B-reader program, which was implemented in the United States for more consistency in the reading of coal miners’ x-rays.

Smyth added that the current lax enforcement of coal dust regulations and poor medical training “is now costing dozens of miners their lives and many more their health”.

“This situation needs to be ended now.”