Clandestine laboratories & precursors


Number and weight of precursor detections at the Australian border

2007–08 to 2016–17

Both the number and weight of ATS (excluding MDMA) precursor detections at the Australian border increased in 2016‑17, while both the number and weight of MDMA precursor detections decreased this reporting period.

Precursor detections at the Australian border by method of importation (%)




The international mail stream accounts for the greatest proportion of the number of precursor detections at the Australian border, however the importation steam accounting for the greatest proportion of the weight varies by drug type.

Clandestine laboratories

National clandestine laboratory detections by jurisdiction

2007–08 to 2016–17

Clandestine laboratories—commonly referred to as clan labs—are used to covertly manufacture illicit drugs or their precursors. Clandestine laboratories range from crude, makeshift operations using simple processes, to highly sophisticated operations using technically advanced processes, equipment and facilities. The number of clandestine laboratories detected nationally continued to decrease in 2016‑17, from 575 in 2015–16 to 463 in 2016‑17.

Queensland continues to account for the greatest proportion of national clandestine laboratory detections. In 2016‑17, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory reported decreases in the number of detected clandestine laboratories, while South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory reported increases.

Detected clandestine laboratories (%)


Size & production capacity



The number of clandestine laboratory detections is not indicative of production output, which is calculated using a number of variables including the size of reaction vessels, amount and type of precursors used, the skill of the people involved and the method of manufacture.

Clandestine laboratories detected in Australia range from addict-based, through to industrial scale laboratories. The majority of laboratories continue to be addict-based and located in residential areas. Category C remains the most common category for clandestine laboratories detected nationally in 2016‑17.