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Fifth black lung case confirmed in Queensland

A fifth case of black lung disease has been confirmed in Queensland, but the latest diagnosis could just be the “tip of the iceberg”.

A Middlemount man in his 60s is the latest victim of the potentially fatal disease, also known as pneumoconiosis, which was thought to have been eradicated in Australia.

CFMEU district president Steve Smyth said the man, a Grasstree Mine worker, had been working underground for more than 40 years.

Mr Smyth said X-rays and scans have been sent to the US for official diagnosis to come from specialist Dr Robert Cohen.

“It’s not been picked up by a local radiologist or a local doctor, it’s still at a stage where (diagnosis) has to be done by a specialist,” Mr Smyth said.

“From my perspective, it just shows the system’s failed.”

Mr Smyth told the ABC the latest diagnosis “may be the tip of the iceberg”.

“We believe that, whilst we welcome the review of the health scheme, that will not go far enough,” he said.

“There needs to be a public inquiry with an independent commissioner with public submissions to get to the bottom of this, [and the question of] how we can have such a terrible disease that people thought was eradicated, suddenly be back and maybe worse than ever.”

So far there has been three cases from Carborough Downs coal mine, one from Grasstree Mine, and another from Ipswich. There are another five “potential cases” of black lung which are yet to be confirmed.

A committee made up of coal mining companies, union representatives and other stakeholders will meet in Brisbane on Thursday to discuss a review of the x-ray process.

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AMSJ April 2022