Four underground Queensland coalmines operated by Glencore and Anglo could be prosecuted or even shut down for failing to properly monitor dust levels.
Mines Minister Anthony Lynham has named and shamed the mining companies in parliament, warning they risk severe penalties for failing to meet monitoring obligations designed to protect workers from dust-related diseases such as black lung.
He warned the Mines Inspectorate could demand full, independent safety audits or opt to prosecute or even close Glencore’s Oaky North and Oaky No 1 mines and Anglo’s Moranbah North and Grosvenor sites.
“Based on our knowledge of diseases caused by coal dust, it is my view that any failure to comply reflects a gross disregard of an operator’s obligations to protect their workforce,” Lynham told parliament last night.
Glencore said it was “very disappointed” in itself, and its dust monitoring and reporting failures had been rectified and an investigation launched.
“We will work with the Queensland Mines Inspectorate to ensure this won’t happen again,” the company said in a statement.
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union says immediate action must be taken against the companies.
“The rediscovery of black lung has sent shudders through the coal industry. Here we have coal companies Glencore and Anglo at these mines who continue to obviously expose workers to high levels of dust,” union spokesman Stephen Smyth said.
“We need the inspectorate, the regulator, to come in and take some immediate action to ensure they are in compliance.”
Labor MP Jo-Ann Miller has accused her own government of failing to act promptly on a report about coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, or black lung.
Miller, who chairs the Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis Select Committee that produced the report, said there was no excuse for the government’s dithering.
“The committee tabled its ‘Black lung, white lies’ report on 29 May 2017, outlining 68 recommendations to address the systematic failures which have led to the
re-identification of CWP in at least 23 workers in Queensland in recent times,” she said. “This government has still not responded to the report . . . we call on the government to act immediately and adopt the black lung report.” AAP