‘Horrific’ Sexual Abuses Uncovered in Australia Mining Probe
(Bloomberg) - A landmark investigation into Australia's mining sector has uncovered dozens of shocking cases of sexual harassment and abuse of women workers at companies like BHP Group and Rio Tinto Group.
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The Western Australia government report released on Thursday detailed "horrific" incidents in the workplace, which it described as both industry failures and government oversights. Recommendations included paying compensation to the many workers who were victimized by bosses and co-workers on remote projects.
"I was shocked and appalled far more than I expected at the scale and depth of the problem," said Libby Mettam, chair of the inquiry, in the report. "Hearing the lived reality of the taunts, attacks and targeted violence, the devastation and despair the victims experienced, the threat or loss of their livelihoods that resulted was harrowing and utterly inexcusable."
The investigation delves into the dark corners of an industry that is under increasing pressure from investors, governments and society to address its impact on local communities and the broader environment. BHP and Rio Tinto launched their own investigations after allegations surfaced by women in Western Australia's $159 billion a year resource industry, which transports so-called fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) workers to remote locations for several weeks .
Allegations of abuse uncovered in the report included:
A woman involved in a safety issue was told by a supervisor that if she had sex with him she could "fix the problem".
Another was knocked unconscious in her room and woke up naked with her jeans around her ankles.
Another described how a man pressed his hands on her top several times in front of other workers and "nobody did anything".
After a woman complained about co-workers making sexual jokes about her, one woman said her manager's response was to "impose themselves on her".
sex dolls and sex toys placed in women's dormitories; Women have been victims of stalking, unsolicited texting, and provocative photo requests.
"Shovels," which involved dumping iron ore into the vehicles of female drivers who failed to comply with sexual requests.
BHP, Rio Tinto
The investigation found that in the year ended June 30, 2021, BHP Group had received 91 reports of alleged sexual harassment or assault, of which 79 were substantiated. Rio Tinto received 51 complaints of sexual harassment or assault during FIFO operations from January 2020 to August 2021, including one reasonable sexual assault report and 29 reasonable sexual harassment reports.
"Rio will study the report's recommendations closely," Rio's iron ore chief Simon Trott said in an emailed statement. "The courage of the people who come forward to tell their stories has been critical in shedding light on behaviors that need to change across our company and industry."
Allegations of abuse were also received at projects owned by Woodside Petroleum, Fortescue Metals Group and Chevron Corp. operate.
Chevron will also review the findings, and the research has presented "a critical opportunity to learn, act and improve," the company said in a statement.
Fortescue chief Elizabeth Gaines said that while the company has made safety improvements at work sites following its own review, "we recognize that some inappropriate behaviors still occur."
"Consistent with our zero-tolerance approach to harassment, bullying, discrimination and intimidation, we will continue to encourage our team members to identify inappropriate behavior, speak up and take clear, decisive action when they identify inconsistent behavior our values," Gaines said in a statement.
BHP and Woodside did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the details of the report.
In Western Australia, a resource-rich state four times the size of France and the center of a massive iron ore industry, remote mines that can only be reached by flights of FIFO workers have been particularly risky for women. They remain largely male-dominated, and workers live in camp-style housing.
A report commissioned by Rio Tinto and released in February showed that more than a quarter of its female employees have experienced sexual harassment and almost half of all employees have been victims of bullying. Bigger competitor BHP said last year it had laid off 48 workers at its Western Australia sites since 2019 after confirming allegations of harassment.
The WA government should "consider establishing a forum to hear, document and recognize the experiences of victims of historical sexual harassment in the workplace," the report recommended. “Part of this process could include investigating options for redress, such as B. A formal apology from companies and/or perpetrators and appropriate compensation.”
Other recommendations from the report, which are expected to be adopted by the state government, include:
Ensure that mining and other resource companies enforce serious consequences, including dismissal, for anyone who has attempted to solicit sexual favors for gain and that all appropriate legal action is taken against them.
The industry needs to find ways to prevent perpetrators of serious sexual harassment from finding re-employment in other locations and companies.
The mining and resource industry must establish acceptable standards for lodging facilities, including safety and other security measures.
"We've been told how sexual harassment is widely accepted or overlooked, abuses of positions of power, gross violations of codes of conduct, and a culture of cover-ups," Mettam said. "It's just shocking that this could happen in the 21st century in one of the most lucrative industries in the state."
(Updates with comments by Fortescues Gaines)
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