A research report has spotlighted the health risks of coal dust for people and communities living in the Hunter Valley. The Hunter region has the highest concentration of coal mining and coal burning in close proximity to population centres and farmland in Australia, and approximately 16% of the Upper Hunter Valley is covered by open-cut coal mines. An assessment of data from around the world shows that coal mining communities have higher rates of mortality from lung cancer and chronic heart, respiratory and kidney diseases.
These health impacts are costing Australians dearly. The Climate and Health Alliance found that the health costs among people living in Singleton, Muswellbrook and Newcastle due to fine particle pollution from coal mines and power stations amounts to close to $80M per year.
There are already regular alerts for dangerous particulate pollution exceeding national health standards in the Hunter Valley and a report from the Environment Protection Authority has revealed a 50 per cent jump in dust emissions over five years from coal mines in the Hunter region. However, rather than curtailing mines and managing risks, there are now plans for an even greater expansion in coal mining across the Hunter Valley.