This is a true report of the problems faced by a small, but reasonably affluent town in Australia, which had the misfortune to be built near a coal deposit. Although Australia has strict environmental laws, it is easy enough to circumvent them, sometimes with disastrous consequences. It took 6 years to demonstrate that the proposed introduction of underground coal gasification was so dangerous that it had to be banned. Devastation of the town was avoided by the efforts of a handful of ‘concerned citizens’. This same group, now more experienced, was then able to assess the consequences of an open-cut mine as an alternative project. Apart from using the best knowledge available they were also able to develop new ideas beneficial to a wider society. One such example is detailed. This is the observation that coal miners in underground and open-cut mines tend to suffer from different coal-related illnesses. While trying to investigate this difference in physical/chemical terms, this research seemed to give an unclear explanation. This lends credence to the suspicion that stimulation of the human immune system may be a more plausible explanation. If this is true it is of much interest to medical science.
open-cut coal mining, regulation and management, risk
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