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Coal mine dust is one of the principal occupational hazards to which coal mineworkers are exposed. 

Without adequate protections, coal miners can inhale dangerous amounts of coal mine dust that may result in certain chronic lung diseases collectively known as coal mine dust lung disease (CMDLD).

CMDLD includes two main types of diseases:

  • pneumoconiosis (a dust-induced scarring lung disease commonly called black lung)

  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).


Every breath can be a struggle in the life of a coal miner suffering from occupational lung diseases. In exchange for backbreaking work that has generated enormous wealth for more than a century, miners far too often walk away with incurable ailments that require life-long treatments they cannot afford. Many have tragically lost their lives.


Workers who develop lung diseases after being exposed to coal dust typically experience:

  • Chronic coughing

  • Breathlessness

  • Pain in the lungs 

  • A lower quality of life 

  • A reduced life expectancy

  • Work restrictions

  • Limitations in prospects of alternative employment 

  • Unemployment, as their disease progresses

Ongoing medical monitoring and treatment is required to manage and limit the harmful impact on workers and their families.


“I experience constant chest pain. At night I have to sleep in a particular position to try to relieve the chest pain. My coughing and wheezing sometimes wakes me up at night.  When I walk quickly it feels like my chest is blocked, and I have to stop and rest for a while. When I walk up an incline, I experience chest pain and can only walk very slowly. I often run out of breath.

The impact this illness has had on myself and my family has led to my inability to work after leaving the mine. My breathing is laboured and I am not able to do physical work. Maintaining a job in my condition would be near impossible.”

Applicant Maiwana Jan Nkosi (65), who worked on a mine between 1981 and 2016,
was diagnosed with Coal Mine Dust Lung Disease in 2020.


Class actions are large scale lawsuits whereby a group of representative plaintiff applicants are certified by the Court to represent the interests of defined classes of litigants. Applicants in this proposed class action for sick coal miners seek to hold global mining companies South32, BHP Billiton PLC and Seriti Power responsible for alleged actions from March 12, 1965, to the present, including failing to provide adequate protections to shield workers from toxic coal dust. 


The proposed applicant classes include:

  • Current and former coal miners who contracted coal mine dust lung disease (CMDLD) in the form of pneumoconiosis – with or without chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) ) who worked at the respondents’ mines

  • Current and former coal miners who contracted COPD ) who worked at the respondents’ mines

  • Dependents of coal miners ) who worked at the respondents’ mines and died due to the illness


If the classes are certified, miners who fall within the class definitions will automatically be considered a part of the class. Eligible miners will, however, have the option to opt out of the class action proceedings if they choose.

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