Black lung to become an industrial relations flash point

THE discovery of three Queensland coal miners with black lung has led to walkouts at Glencore and Anglo American mines, with health and safety of underground coal mine workers back on the agenda.

Lou Caruana
Black lung to become an industrial relations flash point

Anglo American’s Grasstree’s afternoon shift on Wednesday chose not to start work underground due to concerns they expressed regarding historical dust exposure, a company spokeswoman confirmed to International Coal News.

“The workforce’s concerns were actively addressed on site Wednesday afternoon through information and discussion sessions with senior managers and they returned to work within three hours,” she said.

“Anglo American can confirm compliant and effective dust controls are in place at each mine site and the Mine’s Inspectorate monitors this compliance on a regular basis.”

All employees of Anglo American are required to undertake x-rays as part of their medicals every five years, and the company is up to date with all compulsory medical testing and x-rays, the spokeswoman said.

At the Oaky Creek complex in central Queensland, Glencore has told workers they must return underground to work, or risk losing their jobs, according to the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland district president Steve Smyth said that while some mining companies were taking the issue seriously and acting with consideration, others “clearly have no regard whatsoever for their workers health and safety”

“After what we’ve learnt this week about the reemergence of black lung, forcing workers back down underground against their wishes shows a stunning disregard for Australian employees’ health and safety,” Smyth said.

“It is completely understandable that workers have concerns about their health and safety under the circumstances and companies who try to ignore or duck the issue should be condemned.

“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.”

A spokesman for Glencore told ICN: “None of the reported cases of pneumoconiosis involve Glencore’s underground coal operations in Queensland, nor have any of our employees who have 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.”

In light of the recently diagnosed cases of black lung in Queensland, the union's position has been outlined in a “letter to lodges” sent to members in Queensland.

Smyth said if coal mineworkers believe they are at imminent personal danger then they have the right under the Coal Mining Health and Safety Act to remove themselves to a place of safety.

“Coal mine workers should not fear any reprisal action for holding any real and genuine concern for their safety. Where a coal mine worker withdraws to a place of safety they may be directed to perform other duties that are safe,” he said.


A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the mining sector, brought to you by the Mining Monthly Intelligence team.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the mining sector, brought to you by the Mining Monthly Intelligence team.


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