Black lung victim Keith Stoddart and wife Danielle giving evidence at the Senate inquiry into the return of the disease in Queensland coal mines.
Black lung victim Keith Stoddart and wife Danielle giving evidence at the Senate inquiry into the return of the disease in Queensland coal mines. Lucy Smith

Black lung inquiry: Mines' dust testing done at 'low' times

A CURRENT mine worker and CFMEU delegate has criticised the way mining company Anglo American has handled dust mitigation at its Grasstree Mine.

Chris Carter, 34, gave evidence in the second day of Senate Select Committee on Health hearings into the return of black lung disease in Mackay yesterday.

Six Queensland coal miners have been diagnosed with black lung disease, which was previously thought to have been eradicated in the state.

Mr Carter, who has worked in five Bowen Basin mines for nearly 10 years, said Anglo American co-ordinated a dust mitigation committee in November last year.

"I don't think it's done anything... I'm yet to see any changes (to dust mitigation, other than the provision of PPE)," Mr Carter said via teleconference.

He said dust monitoring was generally undertaken once a month, on a Thursday afternoon, when his longwall crew was on a "maintenance" shift.

Senator Deborah O'Neill, who is chairing the inquiry, said it "would seem" that the dust monitoring was "being constructed to happen in the time when it's least likely to show up dust".

Mr Carter agreed.

"That's an argument that we've had with our management time and time again," he said.

Mr Carter said until the first black lung case emerged late last year, his underground mining colleagues wore dust masks around 25-30% of the time.

He said that figure had since risen to roughly 85%.

Former miner Keith Stoddart, one of the six diagnosed, also gave evidence at the inquiry.

He said he had spent "thousands" on medical bills, and had not yet been able to receive workers' compensation.

Mr Stoddart began his mining career in New South Wales in the 1970s, and has since worked at several Bowen Basin mines including Grasstree.

Mr Stoddart's wife Danielle told the inquiry her husband's health had deteriorated since diagnosis.

"As soon as he exerts himself, like by mowing the lawn, he can't manage that," she said.

"As soon as he gets up he's exhausted. He's starting to wake up through the night with pains in his chest."

Where to from here

Next week: The Senate Select Committee on Health will hold a supplementary hearing in Canberra.

Within a month: The committee plans to release a report with its recommendations.


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