Alarming new statistics about mining's drug issue

Open pit all lit up

Drug use in Australia's mining industry is a worsening issue, according to new survey results.

Drug use in Australia’s mining industry is a worsening issue, according to new figures from the Mining People International Polling and Media Centre.

The centre’s latest poll asked the question: Do you think illicit drug usage by mining employees is becoming a bigger issue for mining companies?

The purpose of the Polling and Media Centre is to survey visitors to the MPi website on issues important to the industry. Our drugs survey received our biggest response yet — with just short of 800 respondents. The results were fascinating and troubling. Here is what we discovered:

Answer: Yes, I believe they are becoming a bigger issue.

(I am a supervisor/manager)      



(I am not a supervisor/manager)



Answer: No, I believe they are becoming a lesser issue.

(I am a supervisor/manager)



(I am not a supervisor/manager)




Answer: I don’t believe it is getting any better or worse.  

(I am a supervisor/manager)      



(I am not a supervisor/manager)



The headline results: optimists versus pessimists

In excess of 60 per cent of respondents felt drugs were becoming a bigger issue in Australia’s mining industry. Notionally, we could call these people the “pessimists”.

Only 12.13 per cent of respondents felt it was becoming a lesser issue, with 27.7 per cent feeling there was no change. We’ll call this 40 per cent, collectively, the “optimists”.

Are the views of supervisors & managers aligned with those of “workers”?

There were 791 respondents split as follows by seniority level:

Supervisors/ Managers



Non Supervisor/Managers



Importantly, but coincidentally (we did not plan this), respondent numbers from both groups were both broadly representative.

Where we felt things might get interesting is in the differences in perceptions of the two demographic groups. Of the 349 supervisors and managers who voted, 206 (59 per cent) felt things were getting worse, compared to 442 non-supervisor and managers, of whom 270 (61 per cent) felt things were getting worse.

This suggests there is clear and consistent evidence available to both groups that drug use in our industry is worsening.

Perspective differences between mining managers and workers

So, where are the conflicts or points of difference between the groups? Well, once again even when we analyse the results of those people who perhaps see things most optimistically and feel the issue is getting either no worse, or indeed, improving, there is close alignment between the groups.

Of the management group 143 voted what we will call “somewhat optimistically”, representing 41 per cent of their total. There were 172 non-management respondents voting this way, representing 39 per cent of their total. 

So, what can we say about drugs in mining?

While at one level 60 per cent of respondents were pessimistic about the issue and 40 per cent were optimistic, there would appear to be an alignment between the two demographics.

Why would this be? This simple poll can’t answer that question but to speculate:

  • Is it because mining company education and awareness programs are made available equally to all groups and there is therefore universal “joint ownership” of the issue?
  • Is it because illicit drug usage by mining employees is consistent across supervisors and managers and “workers”?

Whatever the answers to these questions, put simply, while the results of this poll suggest things are getting worse, if one group had a wildly differing view to the other, that might have been cause for even bigger alarm. Despite what many might have expected that, though, does not appear to be the case based on the results of this survey. We just hope that this alignment is not a symptom of broad acceptance that not much more can be done about the problem of drugs in Australia’s mining industry. 

Please contribute your thoughts by voting on our current poll here, or browse the archives of previous questions. If you have a question or wish to submit a topic for discussion, please email the team.

Third-party commissioned research

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Steve Heather signature
Steve Heather – BAppSc (Mining Engineering) WASM, FRCSA

Managing Director & Principal Executive Search - Mining People International (MPi)

Fellow/National Board Member – Recruitment, Consulting & Staffing Association Aust. & N.Z. (RCSA)

[email protected]