Our health at risk: Alliance

ABOUT 35 people attended the Muswellbrook and District Workers Club on Wednesday to hear the findings of a new report claiming coal mining affects public health.

The report entitled, Coal and Health in the Hunter: lessons from one valley for the world, was produced by the Climate and Health Alliance.

Lead author Fiona Armstrong told the Muswellbrook audience coal is becoming an unwelcome health burden that carries other economic and social costs for Hunter Valley communities.

“What we’re saying is that there are costs associated with the coal industry that are not being factored in to the price of electricity or to the costs of coal projects as put forward by the industry,” she said.

The report makes special mention of Muswellbrook, claiming the annual burden of health damages associated with exposure to fine dust particles (PM2.5) emitted by coal mines is estimated to be $18.3 million.

Ms Armstrong said case studies of landholders from Denman, Camberwell and Bulga were included in the report, as well as research from public health academics and extensive industry and government data.

She outlined key recommendations, telling the audience the Climate and Health Alliance is seeking a ban on new coal projects and a health impact assessment of all current projects.

Other recommendations include the introduction of mine fire suppression plans, the covering of fully laden coal trains, a tightening of air quality standards, a limit on diesel emissions and a reform of planning laws.

The report is also seeking a long-term transition plan away from coal for the Hunter Valley in consultation with the community.

The NSW Minerals Council said there was no evidence to support the claims made in the report.

CEO Stephen Galilee said NSW air quality standards were among the highest in the world and generally met, including in the Hunter.

He added that CSIRO research has shown wood smoke is the biggest contributor to fine particle pollution in the Upper Hunter.

Yesterday, Australia’s Environment Ministers met to discuss air quality standards ahead of a National Clean Air Agreement, due to be finalised by July 1, 2016.

INFORMATIVE: Fiona Armstrong addresses the crowd in Muswellbrook on Wednesday night.

INFORMATIVE: Fiona Armstrong addresses the crowd in Muswellbrook on Wednesday night.