Second mine site raided in drug crackdown December 06 2014

A sniffer dog checks luggage at Christmas Creek yesterday. Picture: WA Police
A sniffer dog checks luggage at Christmas Creek yesterday. Picture: WA Police



Cloudbreak, owned by the Fortescue Metals Group, is being searched a day after police raided the Christmas Creek mine, which resulted in one man being summonsed for possessing drugs without a prescription.

Commander Murray Smalpage says it’s the start of an ongoing operation targeting drug use across WA.

“We don’t want drugs anywhere in Western Australia because of the destructive nature they have on families and their contribution towards greater crime issues,” he told ABC radio.

An ex-mine worker also told ABC radio that very few people brought drugs onto sites, but did use illicit substances like amphetamines on their time off because it couldn’t be detected after a short period of time.

“These people are usually coming down when they’re back on site,” he said in a statement read to listeners.

“(These people) are very easy to pick on site. They are very skittish and they have very bad tempers.”

A sniffer dog checks workers at Christmas Creek yesterday. Picture: WA Police

Yesterday about 300 FMG employees and contractors were searched as they arrived at the company’s site airport in the Pilbara, with a drug sniffer dog searching their luggage as part of the operation.

There were no arrests but one contractor was issued a summons for possessing drugs without a prescription and another is awaiting further lab tests after returning a “non-negative” result.

Last month, a Port Hedland-based FMG executive admitted there was a “drug problem” at the company’s worksites just weeks after methamphetamine and $25,000 cash were allegedly found in a company-owned workers’ village.

Fortescue chief executive Nev Power said the random searches took place with the company’s co-operation.

“Today leaders from Fortescue escorted a police team, including sniffer dogs, as they conducted random drug searches on inbound flights carrying employees and contractors to our Christmas Creek mine,” Mr Power said.

“Illegal drugs do not belong in the mining industry, just as they do not belong in the community, and anyone who uses illegal drugs on a Fortescue site is putting the safety of themselves and their mates at risk, which is unacceptable.”

Mr Power told ABC Radio this morning that any employee or contractor found with drugs would be “taken off site immediately”.

"We have worked with WA Police to have police with sniffer dogs meet our planes at Christmas Creek and will continue that process through the rest of our mine sites," Mr Power told ABC radio.

"WA Police will do the same at other sites in the Pilbara.

"There is a growing and significant incidents of drugs use in our society and some of that flows to our mine sites and endangers the safety of workers and individuals.

"We are working with WA Police to prevent access so we have a significant deterrence for people wanting to bring drugs on site.

"It is a growing issue and we are getting intelligence about attempts to infiltrate drugs into our mine sites.

Mr Power said that for too long the industry had "turned a blind eye" to drug problems.

"It's time we as an industry and society stood up against drugs," he said.

"There is no room for it on our sites."

A worker based at Christmas Creek told The West Australian the sniffer dog’s presence had not rattled staff.

“No one is freaking out but we’ve heard about the drugs in Hedland and news of the operation spread like wildfire,” he said.

Commander Murray Smalpage said the mining industry and community at large could expect to see similar police actions in the near future.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA chief executive Reg Howard-Smith welcomed the police response in tackling the “scourge of drugs” and was pleased resources companies were offering cooperation and support.

“Illicit drug is a serious issue, not just due to the significant community impact, but with regards to the resources sector the use of illicit substances and alcohol are critical safety issues,” said Mr Howard-Smith.

“There is no greater priority for the resources sector than the health and safety of employees.
“Everyone has a right to go home safely at the end of the day.”

Mr Howard-Smith said the nature of resource sector operations, with complex equipment and remote locations, means the broader sector had a zero-tolerance policy when it came to being found under the influence of illicit substances.

“If you are impaired by one of these substances while at work you could be putting yourself and your colleagues at serious risk of injury or death,” he said.

“No one wants to work next to someone who is impaired by illicit substances.”

A Rio Tinto spokesman said the company supported police in targeting prohibited drugs in the Pilbara.