Community and environment groups have accused Queensland Resource Council CEO Ian Macfarlane of down-playing the health impacts of air pollution from Queensland coal mines.
Environmental Justice Australia and Clean Air Queensland have described Mr Macfarlane’s response to the recently-released National Pollution Inventory (NPI) as “inaccurate and misleading”.
The NPI is an annual audit of toxic pollution to air, water and land from Australia’s mines, industries and businesses. This year’s figures show alarming levels of toxic emissions from the state’s coal mines, following a trebling of particle pollution reported by coal mines during the past decade.
Mr Macfarlane was quoted in the Brisbane Times as saying, “Queensland has a rigorous and transparent system of compliance with dust monitoring levels and companies implement stringent measures to reduce emissions,” and “the top priority is the health and safety of mine workers and the resources sector is committed to their protection”.
“It is time for Mr Macfarlane to rethink his business-as-usual position and start putting the health of the community first,” said Mr Michael Kane, spokesperson for Clean Air Queensland.
“Dozens of coal workers have Black Lung and many thousands of Queenslanders who live close to coal mines are unprotected from dangerous particle pollution.
“With 17 of the 20 most polluting coal mines in Australia in Queensland, where an inquiry into Black Lung is underway, Mr Macfarlane should join us in our call for better regulation,” Mr Kane said.
“It is not good enough for Mr Macfarlane to suggest self-regulation by Queensland coal mining companies is rigorous and transparent that Queensland coal mines employ stringent measures to reduce emissions defies the reality of the industries own data,” Mr Kane said.
“Black Lung has re-emerged in his industry because emission standards and self-regulation have catastrophically failed coal workers.”
Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) spokesperson James Whelan said communities were at risk of air pollution from coal mines in Queensland due to poor air pollution monitoring in communities closest to large coal mines.
“In the Hunter Valley, an extensive government-run network of air pollution monitoring stations provides communities with real-time air pollution data that is used by mining companies and environmental regulators to actively manage pollution from coal mines,” Dr Whelan said.
“By contrast, the Queensland Government doesn’t have a single air pollution monitoring station between Moranbah and Gladstone, a region of more than a million square kilometres, where most of the country’s most polluting coal mines are located close to communities.”
“It is breathtaking that Mr Macfarlane can suggest air pollution from coal mines has declined.
“In fact, coarse particle pollution (PM10) trebled in the last decade according to the coal mining companies themselves.”