The recent needs assessment report for Watson Lake and Dawson City hospitals and subsequent reporting in the media have suggested that there is a substance abuse issue in Yukon’s mining industry. Yukon mines are leaders in addressing substance abuse and are working hard to make Yukon mines a clean and safe workplace for their employees.
The needs assessment report contains the statement on page 41 in the qualitative assessment section that 25 per cent of the mining workforce turns over because of substance abuse. The fact is that less than one per cent of the turnover at Yukon’s three operating hard rock mines is due to alcohol or drug abuse.
Approximately seven per cent of pre-employment drug and alcohol screenings result in failures, with a large majority of failures coming from Yukon applicants. Unfortunately no one from the mining industry was contacted or included in the needs assessment survey to provide accurate information. Even these more realistic numbers are unacceptable to the mining industry and efforts continue to eliminate all substance abuse.
All Yukon mines have a zero tolerance policy for drug and alcohol use at their operations. In addition to pre-employment screening and on-site testing due to accidents and incidents, the mines also have in place modern impact benefits agreements that have specific sections on drug and alcohol policies. They also have in place employee assistance programs as part of benefits programs to assist employees with drug and alcohol issues.
The exploration industry shares many of these same policies. Several instances have occurred where an employee was not terminated for a failed post-incident test by going through rehabilitation available through their medical insurance and returning to work clean. This acknowledges the potential disability of addiction and offers employees a chance to recover and move forward.
The modern, responsible health and safety programs and policies in place at Yukon mines have been developed to improve the well-being of employees both on the work site and at home in their communities. These policies and agreements obviously provide substantial incentives for those seeking employment within the progressive, socially responsible, well-paid mining industry to not indulge in activities that threaten the health and safety of co-workers, family and friends.
This is not unique to Yukon mines and anyone contemplating a future in the mining industry should be aware that stringent but fair policies exist within the industry to prevent substance abuse both on and away from the worksite. Those who wish to participate in a modern industry that integrates a spectrum of careers through the trades, sciences, engineering and numerous other employment opportunities in a clean, safe work environment, please apply. Potential employees, especially our young people, should explore training and education through the Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining, Yukon Mine Training Association, Yukon College or other educational institutions.
The leadership the mining industry provides is helping create healthier Yukon communities.
Yukon Chamber of Mines