Australian survey shows that minors fail to protect women, supports the criminal record of Reuters
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Iron ore mining, including a railway network, can be seen in the wilderness of Western Australia near the city of Port Hedland in this aerial photo on 5 September 2016 Photo taken 5 September 2016. REUTERS / David Gray
By Praveen Menon and Byron Kaye
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s mining industry should consider a register of perpetrators of sexual harassment to help curb widespread cases of abuse, a state report said on Thursday, describing cases of “horrific” behavior and “horrific” against women.
The survey of mineral-rich Western Australia, home to most of the country’s iron ore industry, also criticized mining giants such as BHP and Rio Tinto (NYSE) for ignoring or ignoring illegal and criminal behavior.
The publication of the report follows a year-long investigation into concerns about a culture of sexism and bullying that fueled public anger over working conditions last year, leading to what has been called the MeToo moment in Australia.
Australia accounts for about half of the world’s iron ore exports, and women have long complained about sexual harassment in so-called “fly in, fly out” mining camps, temporarily living in remote mines to house workers.
“I was shocked and appalled far beyond expectations at the scale and depth of the problem,” Commission President Libby Mettam said in a speech to parliament when the report was presented.
“We were told that sexual harassment is widely accepted or ignored.”
Examples mentioned in the report were harassment, sending obscene messages, requests for sexual services in exchange for permanent employment and sexual abuse.
A woman told the investigation how she was knocked unconscious in her hut and woke up to find her jeans and underwear around her ankles, which made her feel “sick, ashamed, offended, dirty and very confused.
“We heard about a behavior of power called ‘shifting’ where iron ore would be dumped on the cabs of trucks driven by women if they did not comply with sexual demands,” the report said.
People who spoke to the committee said that the perpetrators of serious harassment had simply changed their place of employment or were employed by another company, according to the report.
Among 24 recommendations, he suggested that the industry consider a criminal record or other alternatives “that could work effectively and fairly to prevent ordinary sexual harassment from continuing to be re-employed.”
He also recommended creating a forum to document the victims’ historical experiences and explore opportunities for redress, such as a formal apology and compensation.
Other proposals included improved reporting of harassment, better training for workers and managers, improved accommodation and safety at mining camps, and restrictions on alcohol consumption.
Leading global miners including BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue have submitted contributions to the inquiry, with most acknowledging that sexual harassment thrives in Western Australian mining camps and promising reforms.
But bullying and abuse have continued in the sector for the past 18 months.
Rio Tinto said in a statement that it would carefully review the recommendations of the report.
Rio released its own report in February which showed that almost 30% of women had experienced sexual harassment at work, with 21 women reporting actual or attempted rape or sexual abuse.
Western Australia’s mining sector employs around 150,000 people and generated $ 208 billion ($ 143 billion) in export revenue by 2020/21.