Mine dust lung diseases
Mine dust lung diseases (MDLD) are caused by long-term exposure to high concentrations of respirable dust, generated during mining and quarrying activities.
MDLD include a range of occupational lung conditions including but not limited to:
- coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP)
- mixed dust pneumoconiosis (MDP)
- silicosis (a form of pneumoconiosis from silica dust)
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
For more information on disease types, detection and assistance available please visit miners' health matters.
The Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy (DNRME) receives reports of disease from a variety of sources including Appointed Medical Advisers (via the Coal Mine Workers' Health Scheme), Site Senior Executives (SSEs) and The Office of Industrial Relations (OIR) via the workers' compensation scheme.
The figures displayed below represent cases of disease that have been reported to the department since 1984, when doctors Rathus and Abrahams completed the last comprehensive survey of the coal mining workforce. The figures are updated and published at the end of each month.
Please note, cases may be reclassified over time as additional information is provided to the department.
Coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP)
Figure 1 – Cases of coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP) since 1984 (current as at 30 November 2019)
39 reported cases
Cases of pneumoconiosis
Figure 2 – Cases of pneumoconiosis (including CWP) reported to the department for all mining, since 1984 (current as at 30 November 2019)
82 pneumoconiosis cases
Mine dust can lead to a range of pathological changes in the lungs. In general terms, the resulting lung changes can be divided into 2 groups; those which are fibrotic or nodular (example CWP, mixed dust pneumoconiosis and silicosis), and those which are non-nodular (COPD). Due to being nodular in nature, CWP, mixed dust pneumoconiosis, and silicosis are able to be graded according to a scale of severity under ILO classification. The department has been advised that 9 reported cases of MDLD have progressed to the most severe category of progressive massive fibrosis (PMF). Where disease severity has been reported to the department, the vast majority are in the early stages of disease.
Total individuals with MDLD
Figure 3 – Total individuals with MDLD reported to the department for all mining, since 1984 (current as at 30 November 2019)
128 MDLD cases
When reporting on disease, best practice is to report on individuals rather than multiple disease types per person. The above figure represents the number of all individuals with MDLD reported to the department.
Non-pneumoconiosis conditions include, but are not limited to, COPD, diffuse dust fibrosis, lung cancer and other undefined lung disease. Cases in this category may be re-classified over time as additional information is provided to the department.
Cases of MDLD reported to the department
Figure 4 – Cases of MDLD reported to the department for all mining since 1984 by financial year (current as at 30 November 2019)
Multiple MDLD: Individual has more than one MDLD. This figure may include cases of CWP, silicosis and mixed dust pneumoconiosis. For exact numbers of pneumoconioses cases, including those located in the multiple MDLD category above, please refer to Figure 2.
Other MDLD: Another type of MDLD or the specific type of lung disease is to be confirmed (cases in this category may be re-classified over time as additional information is provided to the department).
Since July 2016, under the Coal Mine Workers' Health Scheme, all chest X-rays have been dual read to ILO standards.
It is important to note that the chest X-ray classification is one part of a screening process, and that a positive read does not necessarily lead to a disease being diagnosed. Results must be further investigated utilising the clinical pathway guidelines which provide the recommended process for follow-up investigation and referral to appropriate medical specialists and tests.
Figure 5 – Chest X-ray screening results (current as at 30 November 2019)
60,759 no disease identified
541 abnormal screening
24 disease detected
- Last reviewed: 06 Dec 2019
- Last updated: 06 Dec 2019