Media Release – Monday 29 October, 2012
A report on international research evidence about the impacts of coal mining on people’s health has found increased risks of serious illnesses in communities surrounding coal mines and near coal-fired power stations. However, similarly detailed studies in Australia’s largest coal mining region in the Hunter Valley still haven’t been done. The report ‘Health and Social Harms of Mining in Local Communities; Spotlight on the Hunter Region’ highlights the likelihood that communities near Hunter Valley coal mines might experience some of the adverse health effects experienced by similar communities overseas, including increased risks of cancer, heart, lung and kidney disease and developmental delay in children.
“There are clear indications from the international health research literature that there are serious health and social harms associated with coal mining and coal fired power plants for people living in surrounding communities,” the report states. The financial and social costs of coal mining and combustion are enormous and may well outweigh any benefits.
The study was commissioned by Beyond Zero Emissions following widespread concern among Hunter Valley communities that the full impact of coal mining and coal-fired power stations remains unknown.
Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) are concerned that adequate health impact studies have not taken place in the Hunter Region. DEA spokesperson Dr Helen Redmond said, “Local research evidence about the impact of pollution from coal mines and power stations in the Hunter Region is urgently needed so that governments and community can make informed decisions and develop policies to minimise health harms.”
“There is evidence of increased rates of ill health among communities close to coal mines and power stations around the world,” Dr Redmond said. “It is difficult to know how much communities in the Hunter are affected by the coal industry without the appropriate research being done. Until comprehensive studies are undertaken, we need to assume much of the international evidence is relevant and take a precautionary approach to protect health.”
Mark Ogge from BZE said the study underlined the need for an independent authority to monitor harmful emissions from coalmines and power stations, a proper health impact study, precautionary 10km buffer zones around any new coal mines and port facilities and an end to coal industry tax breaks like the $2 billion diesel fuel rebate. Diesel exhaust is now listed by the World Health Organisation as a carcinogen.
The report has added to community concerns about the proposed fourth coal terminal (T4) in Newcastle, where coal exports are set to treble to 330 million tonnes each year.
“How can a fourth terminal be contemplated when evidence such as this report demonstrate such serious health impacts?” asked Coal Terminal Action Group spokesperson James Whelan. “The planning process for T4 must be put on hold until a comprehensive study of the current health impacts of coal mining and transport is completed.”
“Tens of thousands of people live within a kilometre of coal mines and trains and the pollution they generate. The NSW Government can’t responsibly approve a massive increase in coal mining and export while the health impacts remain unknown and potentially serious,” said Dr Whelan.
Coal Terminal Action Group: James Whelan 0431 150 928
Doctors for the Environment Australia:
– Dr Helen Redmond (Sydney) 0414 229 089
– Dr Graeme Horton (Newcastle) 0439 540 420
Beyond Zero Emissions:
Mark Ogge 0421 272 884
The report ‘Health and Social Harms of Mining in Local Communities: Spotlight on the Hunter Region’ can be downloaded here: http://beyondzeroemissions.org/blog/coal-health-report-121023
The Coal Terminal Action Group is an alliance of 16 community groups in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.