Ex-miners tested for lung disease

By Toby Walker

The Dust Diseases Board (DDB) made its first trip to Baryulgil to screen ex-miners from James Hardie's asbestos mine this week, but for some families the visit is of little consequence.

Former miner Ken 'Linky' Gordon made the trip from Grafton with his wife Pauline to undergo yet another series of x-rays and breathing tests to measure the health of his lungs.

The 71-year-old was fortunate 20 years ago to be awarded a disability pension from the DDB after it was decided his long-term exposure to asbestos had irrevocably damaged his health.

Others were not so lucky.

As ex-miners travelled to Baryulgil to be screened by the DDB Lung Bus, Mr Gordon thought of the miners who had not lived long enough to see it roll into town.

By his estimate, about 360 miners had worked in the mine prior to its closure in 1979.

Today, he reckoned only about 60 were still alive with most dying well before they reached pension age, many of them from respiratory diseases.

Brothers Leon and David Mundine know this fact intimately.

In Baryulgil's cemetery, alongside the graves of other miners, lay members of the Mundine family, many of them men who worked in the mine, others the wives and daughters who raised families among the asbestos tailings.

The screening of ex-miners from James Hardie's asbestos mine at Baryulgil has found almost a third displayed signs of respiratory illness.

The Dust Diseases Board of NSW's 'Lung Bus' has been in Baryulgil since Tuesday testing ex-miners and community members for health complaints that many believe have arisen from living and working in an asbestos-contaminated area.

The Lung Bus' radiographer, Bert Plamondon, and his team are hoping to screen about 120 people during the three-day visit, giving preference to the ex-miners.

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