Sexual harassment and assault are rife in Australia’s multibillion-dollar mining sector, a year-long investigation conducted Thursday reported poignant testimony from female workers about stalking, grooming and abuse.
The report documents widespread abuses of flying in and out personnel, whose work requires them to spend weeks at remote outback mining sites in Western Australia.
A woman told the Parliamentary Inquiry that she had been knocked unconscious when she returned to her accommodation at a mining site.
“When I woke up, my jeans and knickers were around my ankles. I felt nauseous, embarrassed, violated, dirty and very confused,” the worker told the inquest.
Another told a story of a woman who had “a complete mental and physical breakdown” after being stalked by a coworker.
Women spoke of the exhaustion of dealing with constant bullying while staying in these remote locations — including not being able to wash their underwear because it would be stolen from the clothesline.
Some spoke of guards filming women showering, while others received “bad text messages” from senior staff.
The survey came from the Western Mine Workers Alliance, which reported that more than a fifth of female members had been asked for sexual favors related to their working conditions or career advancement.
The report highlighted contractors’ vulnerability to this type of abuse of power, and told how a woman’s supervisor demanded that she perform sexual acts to “get her shirt,” meaning she was hired directly by the mining company.
“It is important that parliament, the government and the general public become aware of the magnitude of the horrific violence and abuse women are exposed to while doing their jobs,” said study chair Libby Mettam.
Mettam said that while she “knew horrific stories would emerge”, she was “far beyond expectations and appalled by the magnitude and depth of the problem”.
Mining giants Rio Tinto, Fortescue and BHP conducted the investigation and all confirmed they had fired workers for inappropriate behavior.
But the study also found that “people were more likely to be moved to another site than punished”.
The report followed Rio Tinto’s global investigation, released in February, that found evidence of racism, bullying and reports from 21 female employees of actual or attempted sexual assault in the past five years.
The Western Australia survey welcomed Rio’s “groundbreaking” research and encouraged other companies to follow suit.
It also called for a review of reporting procedures and massive investment in safety at mining sites, including the installation of CCTV and lighting.
The powerful industry lobby group, the Minerals Council of Australia, responded to the report, saying the industry has “made significant progress over the past two years” but “still has a long way to go”.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)