Last week, the first case of black lung in NSW in almost half a century was confirmed. This disease kills 1000 miners a year in the US, more than 6000 in China, but in Australia it has barely been heard of since the 1960s.
Black lung is the common name for coal workers pneumoconiosis (CWP), a disease caused by long-term exposure to coal dust. Fine particles of coal get lodged in the lung and once ingested cannot be dislodged.
Australia’s coal exports are valued at $55 billion per year and the industry employs 140,000 people. For 30 years the state’s mining industry was thought to have been rid of the disease. However a damning 2016 report on black lung, published by Monash University, said radiologists were inadequately trained.
In a submission to an ongoing parliamentary inquiry into the disease the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) said they were “stunned when cases began to be identified. And we were even more shocked to find out that the health screening process we relied on … had drifted to a point of abject failure.” The parliamentary inquiry is due to report back next month.
For review of Coal Mine Workers Health Scheme refer to https://www.dnrm.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/383940/monash-qcwp-final-report-2016.pdf