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QUESTION: Where can I find information about mining fatalities in Oz? 06/01/09 Greater London, UK - United Kingdom

Comments: Would you be able to tell me where best to find information about mining fatalities in Oz? Many thanks best regards Anna

ANSWER: Jan 7 2009

Dear Anna,

thanks for your inquiry yesterday. I made a number of phone calls to try to obtain an answer to your question and the best I could come up with is that you would need to contact http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/swa/contact/enquire/pages/enquiries to ask about mining fatalities in Australia: Phone 1300 551 832 - Departmental Media Office of the Australian Safety & Compensation Council (ASCC), Dept of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

All the best with your article.

I would be remiss if I failed to add that the mining fatality figures held by the Australian government could not possibly fully reflect mining fatalities. In my professional opinion, it is FAR more likely for a miner to die early (for instance from heart attack or stroke caused by lead exposure) due to their work exposure to toxic chemicals, than to actually die due to a mining accident.

Despite my suggestion to our state (News South Wales) WorkCover Authority that lead workers ought to be the subject of a longitudinal study to determine typical "causes" and age of death, and whether these correlate well with their blood lead level records during their employment in lead jobs, and the known health risks of lead exposure, no such study has ever been carried out in Australia, unlike in the USA. Please find attached "Study links early adult deaths to lead - 30 million in U.S. could be at risk" Chicago Tribune, 20021227, Kotulak, Ronald. The study is available at:
[Blood lead levels and mortality.
Mark Lustberg, PhD; Ellen Silbergeld, PhD. Arch Intern Med. 2002;162(21):2443-2449.  http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=214370 ] Of course, the 30 million Americans predicted to be at risk from early death from lead poisoning, would include those occupationally exposed in over 75 occupations which involve lead exposure.

Criminally, in my view, lead miners in some Australian states are not even protected by the too-lax occupational health and safety regulations which still allow a worker to have a blood lead level 5 times the "acceptable" community blood lead level. Western Australian mine workers have been told in recent years that the mining company is only required to ensure that the workers' blood lead levels are kept below 12 times the "acceptable" community blood lead level.

This historic practice is literally killing lead mine workers every day - but you'll not find the statistics anywhere because their deaths are recorded as heart attacks or strokes and the occupational lead exposure is never pin-pointed as the culprit.

I hope this insight helps.

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O'Brien

Also see: Minerals Council of Australia, Annual Safety and Health Performance Reports

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