A LEADING drug tester says methamphetamine, the dangerous drug commonly known as ice, is making its way into Bowen Basin mine camps as more miners seek a "cheap cocaine" high.
Frontline Diagnostics owner Michael White has been testing workers for drug use for a decade, and ice, he revealed, is the scariest and most dangerous he has encountered.
"When there's something really nasty it's always ice and we're seeing it start to appear in the mining camps because it's a cheap cocaine," Mr White said.
"You find the smart-alecs in (mining camps) trying to sell ice.
"It cooks the brain, the high that somebody will go on when they take ice will be the best day of their life. The following day will be the worst day of their life and what happens is they take it again to get back there and that's when the brain starts to cook.
"Most ice is out of the body in four to five days, but the trouble is you haven't slept for five days."
Marijuana remained the major drug of choice, showing up in about 80% of positive tests, Mr White said.
Cocaine and heroin ranked very low, less than 5%, while amphetamines made up about 15%, with 20% of that being ice.
Mr White said while an average urine test could pick up about 20 drugs, six were routinely tested - marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, speed, benzodiazepines (valium and sleeping pills) and cocaine.
He warned against the recent union push for saliva-only testing, but while "completely irresponsible" he said it was a testament to the "good job" his company was performing in the region.
"At one mine, we went and did a blanket test of everybody on site that day - there were 17% using drugs," Mr White said.
"It was a shock to management but not to us. That's pretty normal for us… but after doing random testing for six months we got it down to 1.7%."
He said saliva testing was a "pretty amateurish type of technology" which often failed to pick up marijuana and benzodiazepines.
"Saliva is still in the minority, about 40%... The science is just flawed," Mr White, whose company has outlets across the premier mining precincts in the Bowen Basin, Hunter Valley and WA, said.
"The most common drug is marijuana, right across Australia, and that's the one thing saliva is not good at."
He said a number of mines, particularly north of Emerald, had opted for saliva testing for a short period, only to discard the idea following some close calls with accidents involving workers who were supposedly clean.
But under new National Mining Regulations, introduced in Queensland on January 1, companies require a majority consent from their workforce before being able to conduct anything but a saliva test, a move largely backed by unions.
The Australian Mines and Metals Association said without union support, it would be "near impossible" to get anything but a saliva test on a Queensland mine site.
Last week the CQ News reported some drug test cheats were enjoying an ease of access to fake urine, cleansing mouthwashes and even prosthetic penises.
Mr White said his company had been encountering fake urine for the past eight years.