Friday 19th of December 2014

the cost of coal .....

the coast of coal ....

from Crikey …..

Coal mine concerns

We've received this tip from an ex-coal miner, who was prompted to contact us by the excellent ABC series on the asbestos industry, Devil's Dust, airing last night and tonight. This is a serious and arguably under-reported issue, so we're running the tip in full:

"It brought back memories of working in the NSW coalmines in the 1980s. Where I worked, the mine had both underground and open cut mines and received regular visits from the state government mines inspectors. We always knew when they were coming, the underground mine would cease production while they sprayed gypsum on the walls to give it the pretence of looking as if their dust suppression system was up to standard. That dust caused silicosis.

The open cut would have a massive clean-up for the day, and unsafe practices were taboo while the inspectors were there. The day would begin with the light plane carrying the mine inspectors touching down at the mine's own airstrip, the inspectors would be met by a delegation of management and unions and off to the office for morning tea, then a short drive around the open cut and perhaps a duck in to the underground, then the most important part of the day: the whole group lunch at a winery. Two or three hours later the inspectors would be poured back on to their plane and the mine could get back to normal. 

These days, of course, it is far, far different. Any mine inspectors are there in name only, there are no mine inspections in Queensland or NSW, because we have the joy of self regulation. So, no need to waste time with dust suppression or tidy up. So it is all good and mines' safety accident rates are rapidly approaching those of the 1850s. The sleeper here though is the impact of coal dust out in the community, with extremely high rates of childhood asthma. In some towns, uncovered coal trains will pass through every half hour, 24-hours a day.

There is a campaign being supported by the medical fraternity to force coal owners to cover the wagons but this is being strenuously opposed. Does any of this sound familiar? It is. In future years we may well look back and wonder exactly what were

the net benefits of the 83% foreign-owned Australian coal mining industry."