The SNP have today challenged the labour government for delays in paying compensation to miners suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) which resulted in over 2,000 Scottish miners dieing before their payments were processed. Throughout the UK almost 18,000 miners died before their compensation was paid because of labour’s legal challenge to the mining union claims that coal dust causes COPD.
Whilst this is undoubtedly a sickening fact, the inability of todays politicians to move beyond petty points scoring is even more tragic when respiratory diseases such as COPD are being inflicted slowly on communities now. The mining trade unions were admirable in their work to highlight the health impacts of the industry on the majority of its low paid workers. But what about the communities living near the massive open cast coal mines now active throughout the UK? Who is directly looking into the impacts on their health? Why would the massive volumes of tiny particles which are produced by opencasting stop at site boundaries and not reach the houses of local residents? The issue is too urgent to be ignored and the evidence too powerful to be dismissed.
Whilst the compensation to miners and their families is of course essential for helping them cope with the illnesses inflicted on them or the death of a loved one, it cannot bring anyone back. Blaming a previous governments policy in order to win political points without either offering a solution to the families of deceased miners, or those currently blighted by the industry is petty and callous.
It is our inability to learn from such tragic deaths that is the real issue here. Coal, in its extraction, transportation and combustion is damaging the health of people within the industry, those who live close to it and the planet as a whole.
For further information into the health impacts of opencast coal mining and other health impacts of the coal industry see here