Redwater drug searches continue at Pilbara mine sites

The third phase of Pilbara drug investigation operation Operation Redwater rolled out earlier this week, with nearly 1200 Roy Hill and BHP workers searched.

On Tuesday 695 Roy Hill employees were screened by sniffer dogs, which resulted in a single seizure of marijuana.

No seizures were made from the 495 BHP workers who were screened at Mount Whaleback on Wednesday.

Dogs gave several indications on each day, however WA Police explained that substances other than drugs can attract the attention of drug detection dogs.

Acting assistant commissioner Regional WA Murray Smalpage said he was pleased to see BHP Billiton had participated in Operation Redwater for a second time, and that Roy Hill had also joined the operation.

“For such operations to be successful workers at these remote sites need to know that wemay re-visit the same companies as part of our ongoing series of ‘Redwater’ operations,” he said.

“To see this commitment from BHP Billiton is a strong sign that the industry sees the long term benefits of working with WA Police to deter illicit drug activity.

“It is just as commendable to see senior management at Roy Hill provide support to this industry partnership and help us extend our reach further across the remote worksites landscape.

Smalpage said WA Police had received a lot of positive feedback from remote workers during the previous operations, however many workers raised their opposition to the searches on social media this week, suggesting they had been treated like criminals and felt humiliated.

One Roy Hill employee said workers were kept on busses without being allowed to exit, then lined up outside for the search, with some people kept waiting for three hours.

It was also suggested there was a health and safety risk with leaving the workers’ lunches unrefrigerated on the busses for extended periods of time.

Other workers said they did not resent the searches, and took peace of mind from knowing that unacceptable behaviours would be weeded out of the workforce.

Smalpage acknowledged that it was the actions of a few that put the safety of others at risk, and recommended reporting any drug use to supervisors, if not the police.

“Policing is about being anywhere, anytime, and our ‘Redwater’ series of operations have sent a clear message to anyone considering taking illicit drugs to remote worksites that they are not outside our reach,” he said.

“Drug use is an issue across all parts of our community, not just regional WA or specific industries, however it is important to tackle this issue from many angles and this collaborative approach is just one of many strategies being deployed by WA Police to target the issue.

“At times it can be difficult to make that decision to report drug use to Police or supervisors at work, but it is important to remember that your family want to see you at the end of your shift rotation, and people who use drugs on site, or who are coming down off drugs on site, present a real and serious danger to you.

“If you don’t want to report the drug use to police, at least report it to your supervisors.”

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