Make Black Lung History

dtdVictims' submission to Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry

"We are innocent victims suffering from this disease because of the failure of mining companies and government regulators to ensure a safe workplace over many decades.
We worked in the mines, we know how bad the dust is and we know what to do to reduce it.We are the ones with most at stake who are suffering from this disease and we would like our voices heard."

Read the submission

Queensland coal mining industry slammed in black lung review - ABC

The ABC's 7.30 program has exposed the extent of the deficiencies in the monitoring and regulation of dust in Queensland's coal mining industry.

Steve Mellor, a 39 year old coal mineworker, went for a check up "on the spur of the moment" after hearing about new cases of black lung. He was shocked to learn that he has the disease. Previous examinations conducted by company medical examiners, had failed to pick it up. He may have had it for 9 years.

As Queensland District President, Steve Smyth, told 7.30, "Doctors haven't done their job. Radiologists haven't done their job. Coal companies haven't done their jobs. The health surveillance unit and the Government, through its departments, have failed every coal mine worker past and present in this state."

Watch the program:


Up to one thousand Queensland coal workers could have black lung - ABC

730 Report

Watch the ABC's 7.30 report for the latest update on the emergence of Black Lung in Queensland. The Mines Department has a backlog of 150,000 X-Rays. Going on what has been discovered to date, there will possibly be a 16% occurrence, or around 1,000 workers affected by this deadly disease.

Link to 7.30 transcript and video

Here's the ABC's written report:



Percy Verall is the first Australian to be diagnosed with Black Lung for 30 years.

A total of nine cases of Black lung disease are either confirmed or feared in Queensland, with one new case confirmed and another four cases awaiting official diagnosis. It follows four cases reported in November, bringing the total to nine, which could be just the tip of the iceberg.

CFMEU Queensland Mining and Energy division President Steve Smyth said with more than one case per week being diagnosed in the last two months, the Union’s worst fears were starting to be realised and they expect many more diagnosed cases in coming months.

“We can’t put a figure on it because the regulatory system that is meant to detect problems has been asleep for decades, but it could be a big number,” Mr Smyth said.

“They haven’t had specialists, who are known as ‘B-readers’, checking miners X-rays and according to data reported by mining companies themselves, dust levels have been 5-10 times the legal limit. That has to change.”

National Inquiry announced

The campaign to Make Black Lung History has taken big step forward with a Senate Inquiry into Black Lung disease announced by the Senate Standing Committee on Health. The inquiry will allow victims and experts to have their say in an open public forum, make submissions and get all the issues out in the open.

Read more


Make Black Lung History - the Campaign

A campaign has been launched aimed at improving health checks, dust inspections and other government regulation. Dust to Dust; Make Black Lung History will seek a public inquiry into the re-emergence of the disease and six clear commitments from the Queensland Government.

What we're fighting for:

  • New legislation requiring dust levels to be monitored and publicly reported by an independent statutory body – identifying individual mines by name and company.
  • Ensure “B Readers” qualified to internationally recognized ILO standards review all x-rays taken of coalmine workers and fund a training programme in industry best practises for coal dust controls.
  • Immediately clear the backlog of more than 100,000 outstanding worker medicals.
  • Healthcare and screening to be extended into workers’ who have been retrenched or retired.
  • Identify other at-risk workers by randomly sampling those with 10 + years service in the mining industry and performing checks.
  • A community information and outreach program to encourage people in mining communities to be checked.


More information

Here is some more information - by no means comprehensive - which has been published in recent days, and some background information.

Medicals "missed some cases" of deadly lung disease (Daily Mercury)

Media release: Coalminers' lives at risk

7.30 Report: video and transcript

Media release: Companies force workers into mines despite emergence of Black Lung

Letter to lodges: union position on your safety

The Conversation: Explainer - what is Black Lung and why do miners get it?

The return of Black Lung (OHS Alert)

Coal dust disease opens historic Queensland wounds (Brisbane Times)

Black lung medical review starting soon - audio of interview with Professor Malcolm Sim of Monash University (ABC Brisbane)

ILO International Classification of Radiographs of Pneumoconioses


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