Queensland mineworkers have protested outside BHP’s Brisbane offices to demand more assistance for black lung and silicosis sufferers.
The Mine Dust Diseases Victims Group wants a fund established to help victims after their workers compensation payments finish.
So far, the group says, the mining companies have resisted.
Jim Pearce, a former coal miner and Queensland MP, says more than 100 mineworkers have now been diagnosed with mine dust diseases in Queensland.
“These guys are very sick, their families are suffering and their communities are suffering because they’re losing good people to disease,” he said on Friday.
“Nobody has taken up the challenge of trying to look after these guys.”
An industry-backed fund needs to be started to help victim’s with medical and living expenses, Mr Pearce said.
Coal miner Tim Trewin was just 20 years old when he started working underground in the Bowen Basin in 2002.
Walking through Brisbane’s streets to the protest left the 36-year-old – who developed emphysema from coal dust – breathless and exhausted.
“When I first started there was no education on the disease and PPE (personal protective equipment) wasn’t enforced … sometimes you couldn’t see, the dust was so thick,” he told AAP.
Forced into retirement by illness, Mr Trewin and his family have given up their mining company-owned home in Tieri and left their community.
“My wife has had to leave her job, we’ve got five kids and no home,” he said.
“I’ve applied for 18 different jobs across a whole lot of different industries but no one wants me yet.”
The Mine Dust Diseases Victims Group fears the number of mine dust victims is rising and there may be many more undiagnosed cases, particularly among workers at labour-hire companies.
Many workers are frightened to test themselves for mine dust diseases due to fears of being sacked, Mr Pearce said.
The victims’ group says the problem is compounded because doctors are reluctant to pinpoint where a disease may have been contracted, making it difficult for sick workers to get compensation.
BHP says it’s deeply concerned by cases of black lung and other mine dust lung diseases among current and former workers.
We continue to monitor dust exposure at all our mine sites, a spokesman said in a statement.
“Our internal dust exposure limits are more stringent than regulatory limits anywhere in the country,” he said.
The Mine Dust Diseases Victims Group wants a levy of 1c per tonne, per week placed on coal to go into the fund for sick workers and their families.
In the US, coal companies pay a $ US1.10 per tonne levy on each tonne of coal produced to assist mine disease victims, the group says.
Australian Associated Press