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Issue #1754      October 26, 2016

First case of black lung in an open cut miner

I’ve worked in coal mining for 31 years. I worked at the Goonyella Riverside open cut mine in Moranbah all those years. I’ve been working pumping earthworks (mine services) for the last ten years.

I was diagnosed with Black Lung disease in late September following a routine chest x-ray. It shocked me – and I’ve been in shock ever since.

I thought I was safe from developing Black Lung disease because I never worked underground; I’ve worked exclusively in open cut mines.

It is clear from my diagnosis that every single coal mineworker in Australia is at risk of developing this horrific disease, and they don’t know it. If you ask any of my fellow miners if they think there’s a dust problem, they’ll tell you there well and truly is a dust problem. Everywhere you park, after a day’s work, whatever you bring to the area – it will be covered in dust in no time. This can’t be good for your health.

I hope that my coming out and speaking about my case will let other miners know of the risks of inhaling coal dust. I want my mates to be aware of the risks, I want their families to be aware of it, and I want the government to do something about it.

I know plenty of guys are too scared to get x-rays and speak out. There are people losing their jobs left right and centre in the mines right now and people are afraid they’ll be next – they don’t want to raise concerns. But they need to speak up, they need to get tested and they need to go home healthy to their families.

I’m urging all coalminers, all my old mates, to go and get checked, there’s a chance this could happen to you too.

To everybody who is working in a mine, or anyone who has a friend or loved one working as a coalminer, please get behind the Dust to Dust: Make Black Lung History campaign. We’re helping raise awareness of this deadly disease and hopefully bring an end to it.

I am calling on everybody who makes decisions about the coal mining industry – including governments, mine operators and workers – to come together to reduce dust levels and ensure proper health checks for miners. There are many lives and families at stake if we don’t act now.

For anyone who wants to come forward, there is a Black Lung victims’ group to provide support and guidance for coalminers living with the disease, and to make sure our voices are heard. Anyone wanting more information can email victims@dusttodust.org.au.

Finally I’d like to thank my loving wife and two children for their constant support. They’ve been a great help during this difficult time.

Paul Head

Next article – Taking issue – A shock and a sorry selection

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