September 08, 2018:

Former coal miner stops coal train heading into Newcastle coal port in protest of the coal industry and its drastic negative health Impacts.Former coal miner, Micah Weekes, boarded a coal train at 6am this morning, at Sandgate Bridge, Newcastle, stopping trains heading towards the world’s largest coal port. Weekes, a former scaffolder from the Central Coast, who worked in the coal industry for nearly 10 years demands the government take steps towards just transitions away from the coal industry. He is concerned with the drastic negative health affects that he see’s happening to himself, his colleagues, his community and his kids.

‘You don’t have to work in the industry to get sick form this. My kids are gonna get sick. Its already happening. People in my community have reoccurring illnesses, respiratory issues, cancer, tumours.’

In Lake Macquarie alone there are two active coal power stations, Earring and Vales Point, with others which have recently been shut down. These power stations have drastic affects for individuals living in Lake Macquarie, Newcastle and the greater hunter. Weekes calls for the government to make a plan towards just transitions, away from coal and towards a 100% renewable future. These transitions must involve support for workers in the coal industry to be retrained in new, sustainable industries.

The NSW department of Health in the report “Respiratory and Cardiovascular diseases and cancer among residents in the Hunter New England Health Service” conducted in 2010 determined that, in both the Upper and Lower Hunter, which are some of the most affected by open-coal cut mining and power generation activities have higher rates of:

-Emergency department attendance for asthma and respiratory disease

-hospital admission for all respiratory conditions and asthma

-hospital admission for cardiovascular disease and

-death from all causes and cardiovascular disease

Weekes is appalled that the government has found such shocking results about the health affects of mining, specifically in the hunter region, yet refuses to act for a just transition towards safe industries like renewable energy.

“I keep seeing people get sick and no one is doing anything about it.”

People who have worked in the coal industry are increasingly at risk as Micah explained, when basic health and safety requirements like having a good respirator to protect from coal dust were not met.

“We complained because we were getting dust around our nose and ears,  we had the respirator independently tested for workplace health and safety and it failed. It was found that every time people would turn their heads the seal was broken and they breathed in coal dust. Nothing was done. This is after decades of working in the industry.”

This action is part of Frontline Action on Coal and Newcastle Justice Uprising’s event, Act Up, a mass mobilisation set to disrupt the worlds largest coal port. Act Up is taking place in Newcastle from the 12th to the 16th of September. More info can be found at

1. NSW Department of Health report “Respiratory and Cardiovascular diseases and cancer among residents in the Hunter New England Health Service”