Ipswich man Percy Verrall was diagnosed with black lung disease in 2015.
Ipswich man Percy Verrall was diagnosed with black lung disease in 2015.

A 'catastrophic failure' let black lung go on: inquiry

A PARLIAMENTARY committee has called for an independent mines safety body to be established for Queensland.

The call comes in in a scathing 410-page report into black lung disease in Queensland.

The report, tabled in parliament on Monday, said black lung had been allowed to remain in the shadows by a "catastrophic failure, at almost every level, of the regulatory system".

But Mines Minister Anthony Lynham stood by his department's commitment to eradicating the disease.

There have been 21 Queensland miners diagnosed with black lung, also called coal workers pneumoconiosis, but the report said many more cases were expected.

The bipartisan committee proposed a new independent Mines Safety and Health Authority to be based out of Mackay that would take control of mine safety functions.

It recommended mine health and safety be run out of a body independent from the Department of Natural Resources and Mines and include the current Mines Inspectorate.

The new body would have a fully funded dedicated health research function that would share findings with other national and international bodies.

The report also called for the maximum coal dust exposure limit to be halved from three milligrams per cubic metre over an eight-hour period to 1.5mg/cu m.

The report criticised the cooperation of some DNRM staff who fronted the committee.

It said they were "unprepared" and "argumentative and resistant to acknowledging the wide-ranging failings of their department".

But Dr Lynham said it surprised him that the committee took that view of staff in his department.

"The committee doesn't see my department how I see my department," he said.

Dr Lynham said there had been a "complete failure" from miners, mining companies, doctors and governments for 30 years.

No black lung cases had been identified in Queensland for about 30 years until May 2015 when a case was reported. The Commissioner for Mine Safety and Health did not report that case until September that year.

The committee found it was "highly unlikely" black lung ever left Queensland, but for three decades the disease went unreported.

"It seems that all stakeholders accepted at face value that the health scheme had not identified any cases of CWP in Queensland since 1984, and therefore, that it must have been eradicated here," the report said.

"However, the evidence gathered by the committee overwhelmingly suggests otherwise. It is highly unlikely CWP was ever eradicated in Queensland."

The report made 68 recommendations on how to improve Queensland's mine health and safety system.

Neither Dr Lynham nor shadow treasurer Scott Emerson had read the report when they spoke to the media about it, but said they would consider its recommendations.


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