This news item from From SBS News (1 March 2019) highlights the plight of a group of workers who have contracted what is commonly called black lung and the mining companies have so far failed to take responsibility. They have launched to win compensation. All of Australia should know about this.
A victims’ group has protested at BHP’s Melbourne headquarters to push for a fund to help workers suffering from diseases caused by dust from coal mines.
Queenslander Keith Stoddart can barely lift a bucket of water after spending three decades working underground as a coal miner.
The 69-year-old was diagnosed with black lung three years ago and travelled to Melbourne to demand more assistance for sufferers from BHP and other mining companies.
“I can’t hardly carry a bucket of water,” Mr Stoddart told AAP on Friday.
The former miner said a few years ago he was still working underground like a 30-year-old, but now felt like 20 older.
“My future is not looking real bright you know,” he said.
The disease, called pneumoconiosis, is a potentially fatal disease caused by prolonged exposure to coal dust and there is no known cure.
Another black lung sufferer Steve Mellor said he’s received no help from his former employer and was forced to stop working once he was diagnosed.
“They tell you to go away and die, basically,” Mr Mellor said.
They are both part of the Mine Dust Diseases Victims Group, which rallied in Queensland and tried to meet with BHP executive Andrew Mackenzie in Melbourne on Friday.
Dozens of union members and victims were among a group that rallied outside the company’s Collins Street head office calling for change.
The group wants a funding program for victims and their families once workers compensation payments finish.
It is understood that the group is considering reaching out to a law firm for legal advice surrounding the current policies regarding entitlement to workers compensation. Navigating the complexities of workers compensation can be confusing and therefore a legal team will be able to tackle the issues at play in the best possible way.
“These companies reap enormous profits from the labour of their workers,” former coal miner and Queensland state MP Jim Pearce said.
“BHP does next to nothing to support employees who contract potentially deadly and debilitating mine dust diseases while working in their mines.”
Mr Pearce said more than 100 Queensland mine workers have been diagnosed with dust diseases and the number grows each month.
“Sadly, many workers are frightened to get tested for mine dust diseases, because they are frightened of being sacked and losing their livelihoods,” he said.
The group is proposing a one cent per tonne, per week levy on coal produced go into the fund for sick workers and their families.
BHP is yet to respond to requests for comment.