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Queensland government announces action plan to tackle Black Lung

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World Coal,

The Queensland state government has released a five-point action plan to tackle coal miner’s pneumoconiosis – also known as Black Lung after five cases were recently confirmed in the state.

“Protecting the health and safety of workers is a fundamental issue for any Labor Government,” said Dr Anthony Lynham, Queensland’s Natural Resources and Mines Minister and Acting Health Minister, adding that is was likely more cases may be identified after a review of medical and workplace records.

“I am determined to get on top of this issue to protect workers now and into the future and to be open and transparent as we progress,” added Lynham.

The five point action plan will include a review to improve the existing screening system, more action on coal mines exceeding regulated limits on dust levels, an improvement to data collection, investigating potential regulatory changes and placing the issue on the agenda for the national council of mining ministers.

According to Dr Lynham, eight underground coal mines in Queensland have been directed to improve monitoring or bring respirable dust levels back into compliance over the past twelve months – but added that only one was still exceeding dust limits.

Despite this, the Queensland Resources Council has insisted that Queensland coal operators take their obligations to provide a safe working environment “very seriously.”

“Queensland has a rigorous and transparent system of compliance on coal dust monitoring to Australian Standard 2985 with any exposire being further managed through a hierarchy of controls,” said Michael Roche in a statement released in December. “Mine safety and health management systems ensure that the risks are managed and kept as low as reasonably practicable.”

Yet Jason Hill from the mining division of the CMFEU said the union had been contacted by “a lot of concerned people” and that he believed the number of cases could rise substantially.

“We’ve got a spreadsheet in the Mackay office with a lot of concerned people who have contacted the union,” Hill told journalists. “A lot of them are retired mine workers [but] we’ve had relatives of dead mine workers who have died of lung cancer, who reportedly never smoked or who lived a healthy life. We would have 30 – 40 [names] at the moment.”

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