More miners walk off over black lung

More coal miners have walked off site, emulating workers at the Grasstree mine, following the re-emergence of black lung.

Earlier this week miners at Anglo American’s Grasstree coal mine walked off site over black lung safety concerns.

It came on the back of the affliction being detected in three Queensland coal miners.

The cases were detected in the last three months at Queensland coal mines, two of which are at the Vale-run Carborough Downs mine and a third from near Ipswich.

"It's appalling that companies and regulatory bodies have let health standards deteriorate, putting the lives of workers at serious risk," CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth said.

"This is a disease that takes hold gradually and we're extremely concerned that recent diagnoses are just the tip of the iceberg.  

"Of great concern is that Australian health and regulatory frameworks are no longer equipped to deal with the disease."  

However this has ben rejected by the Chief Inspectorate of Coal Mines in Queensland and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists who confirmed that special radiologists in the state are trained to accurately read chest X-rays to the International Labour Organisation Standard Classification of Radiograph.

In light of growing concern over the issue, howeverreports have emerged of Glencore workers walking off site as well.

Miners at Glencore’s Oaky Creek complex threatened to halt work over black lung concerns, according to the Daily Mercury.

Glencore confirmed that workers at Oaky Creek North did walk off site over concerns regarding new cases of black lung in Queensland coal mines, however they eventually returned to work.

According to the report workers were told to re-enter the underground complex or potentially lose their jobs.

"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," CFMEU district president Steve Smyth said.

"Can you imagine the conversation these blokes are having with their families before they are forced back into the mine?"

"There are going to be two sides to this – those mining companies that take ownership and want to be part of the solution, and those who don't. We're already seeing who is lining up where."

Speaking to Glencore, a spokesperson denied workers were threatened with the loss of their jobs, adding safety has been a major issue for the operator.

Employees at Oaky North mine returned to work last night after workers raised concerns yesterday about new cases of pneumoconiosis in Queensland underground mines.

Oaky North mine is one of two underground operations ( Oaky North Mine & Oaky No.1) at Glencore’s Oaky Creek complex in central Queensland.

Work at the Oaky No. 1 underground mine has continued without disruption. 

“None of the reported cases of pneumoconiosis involve Glencore’s underground coal operations in Queensland,” the spokesperson told Australian Mining, “nor have any of our employees who stopped work over this issue been threatened with the risk of losing their jobs.” 

”The health and safety of our workforce remains our top priority.”

The spokesperson went on to say Glencore is now taking action regarding their concerns.

"After spending time listening to our employees yesterday, we have undertaken to provide the following across the Oaky Creek complex, including chest X-raysfor all employees who request them, starting from today, and a further review of all chest X-rays taken within the last six months; all chest X-rays to be viewed and read by a qualified radiologist who is a member of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists and has the necessary competencies; a refresher training in dust and the correct use of PPE; and education and training in relation to dust diseases (including pneumoconiosis)."

 

To find out more about black lung, the causes, and how to prevent it, click here.

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