CONCERNED: Bill Cleary, who has operated Mackay Drug Testing Service for eight years, wants more urine tests used on mining sites, instead of “unreliable” saliva tests.
CONCERNED: Bill Cleary, who has operated Mackay Drug Testing Service for eight years, wants more urine tests used on mining sites, instead of “unreliable” saliva tests. Luke Mortimer

Drug use ‘on the rise’ in Bowen Basin mine sites

USERS of ice and other drugs are putting workmates on mine sites at risk, Mackay Drug Testing Service owner Bill Cleary claims.

Mr Cleary says drug users are aided by "unreliable" saliva tests, creatively dodging urine tests and a lack of proper legislation.

"It's an accident waiting to happen," he said.

Mr Cleary can't fathom why "useless" saliva testing, often "cheap Chinese knock-off tests", have grown as an alternative to reliable urine testing on some sites.

"It's just too easy to mask. And people are getting smarter," he said.

"Mines are worried less about safety now. It's all about production. The more coal they get out the more money they make..."

Through his service he sees about three people a week concerned by ice use within their families.

He is also worried about synthetic drugs, which he describes as almost impossible to detect.

Meanwhile, CQR Health reports seeing more positive tests for methamphetamine, including ice, in the past year than for cannabis - likely due to how easy it is to rid the body of amphetamine traces.

"Changes in circumstances, whether they be economic or personal, mean many people are changing from casual ice users to increased dependency," CQR Health manager Jenny Townley said.

"Cannabis can be detected in a urine drug screening within a week... but ice has a much shorter timeframe in the body, but has many more serious and potentially deadly side effects."

The comments come after a Mackay mine site worker in his 50s, who requested anonymity, claimed ice and synthetic speed has spread throughout the mining industry.

A Mackay woman, who also asked to remain unnamed, backed the comments and said her daughter was driving heavy vehicles at sites high on ice, dodging tests with synthetic urine bought online.

The woman, who showed a receipt for an online purchase, claimed ice use on sites continued largely unimpeded and was a danger to workers.

Mr Cleary warned those who think they can get away with drug use on the job.

"You will probably get away with it for a while. But eventually somewhere, somehow - whether you have an accident at work, on your way home - it will catch up with you."

'Drug use an issue within the broader community'

BHP Biliton said drug use was a societal problem - "an issue within the broader community" - noting that BMA offers counselling.  

The mining company said it was unacceptable for drug-affected employees to work, "placing themselves and their workmates at risk of a serious safety incident".  

Urine screening for drugs was introduced in "particular sites" in 2015, BHP said.   

The company said since enhancing testing it had seen "substantial improvement in the detection rate" and improved safety.  

It said it was "making the case to the State Government that the current review of Queensland's mine safety legislation should support the industry's efforts to improve safety by preventing people impaired by drug use from entering our sites".  

Rio Tinto referred the Mercury to the QRC, which said it had zero tolerance for drug-affected workers and those who attempt to cheat random testing.  

It called for union support for industry proposals to "test for drugs and alcohol using tests such as urine testing, not just the default saliva test".  

Glencore had not yet responded.  

Need help?

  •  Family Drug Support Australia (24 hours): 1300 368 186
  •  Lifeline (24 hours): 131 114
  •  Alcohol and Drug Information Service (24 hours): 1800 177 833
  •  Australian Drug Foundation Workplace Team: (03) 9611 6100

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