Deadly dust levels ‘up to six times too high’ at mine

DOCUMENTS obtained by the CFMEU shows under- ground coal mine workers at Carborough Downs mine were exposed to illegal levels of dust in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Three of the Queensland workers diagnosed with black lung disease, caused by dust inhalation, have worked at the Vale-owned underground mine located 20km east of Moranbah.

In 2014 the average dust inhalation over a 12-hour shift was 4.7mg/m³, exceeding the legal limit of 3mg/m³.

On June 16, 2014, the average dust workers at the longwall production were exposed to was 13mg/m³.

On August 11, 2014 a four-year high of 16mg/m³ was recorded, six times the legal limit. On June 14, 2014, dust levels were tested at 8.2 mg/m³, nearly triple the limit.

CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth said the figures were "frightening".

"To see those levels, the first question you ask is how come the mines were allowed to continue to operate at those levels?" he said.

Mr Smyth said it was likely the dust level increase had been caused by increased production.

He said as mining companies' dust levels were not publicly available, Carborough Downs may not have had the highest levels.

"I think all underground mines have similar problems and this should be a wake up to them all," he said.

CFMEU obtained the dust readings through a mine employee's workers' compensation claim.

On Thursday, Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Dr Anthony Lynham said only one of the state's 12 underground coal mines was still exceeding dust limits.

"Eight mines over the past 12 months have been directed to either improve monitoring or bring respirable dust levels back into compliance," he said.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche would not comment specifically on the dust levels at Carborough Downs mine.

"Queensland has a rigorous and transparent system of compliance with regulated dust levels," he said.

"Any non-compliance in mines should be addressed quickly and decisively and in the meantime workers should be provided appropriate protective equipment to guard against exposure to excessive dust levels."

The 2014-15 Commissioner for Mine Safety and Health Annual Performance Report said dust levels had risen "steeply" from 2012 to 2014.

"Sixty per cent of mines exposed longwall operators to levels equal to or greater than the adjusted regula- tory exposure limit during 2014 compared with 10 % in 2012," the report read.

Vale did not return the Daily Mercury's phone messages for comment.



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