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BHP Billiton positions itself as a progressive leader in the mining industry the goal Achieve a 50-50 gender balance by 2025. But five years later, the world’s largest miner is working hard to assure women that it can provide a safe working environment after two rapes in Western Australia.

The police charged a 35-year-old man with two crimes of rape last month after a suspected incident occurred at a BHP Billiton camp in the remote Pilbara mining area. Last year, a 42-year-old BHP Billiton employee was charged with raping a colleague in Perth.

After its own investigation, BHP Billiton fired two men who denied the allegations.

These claims were made as natural resources companies seek to recruit women to promote diversity and solve skills shortages, and they have shifted their focus to the workplace culture of male-dominated industries.

After local media reported that several other women had lodged complaints of sexual harassment with the police, the Western Australian State Assembly last week ordered an investigation into sexual harassment in the mining industry.

According to the local government, miners have reported 12 cases of sexual assault and 9 cases of sexual harassment in the state in the past three years.

The scandal prompted executives from BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals, Woodside Energy and Newmont to hold a joint press conference and rarely apologize publicly. The miners have pledged to make their workplaces safer for women, and they account for just over one-fifth of Australian miners.

“Rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment [have] There is absolutely no place for BHP Billiton, our industry, and any other company in Australia,” said BHP Billiton Western Australia Iron Ore President Brandon Craig (Brandon Craig).

Scandal followed Investors strengthen scrutiny After Rio Tinto destroyed a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site last year, the Australian mining company. At the same time, two fatal tailings dam accidents in Brazil in recent years have led pension funds and other investors to prioritize worker safety in the environmental, social and governance responsibilities of miners.

The members of the Australian Pension Investor Council, which manages 1.5 trillion Australian dollars (1.1 trillion US dollars) in assets, told the Financial Times that it was “very disappointing” to hear reports of sexual assault.

“This is an issue that investors are concerned about, and it is also a topic that we are in contact with mining companies,” ACSI CEO Louise Davidson told the Financial Times.

The Australian Corporate Responsibility Center, a shareholder’s rights organization, stated that the main responsibility for prevention and response lies with the company’s board of directors.

ACCR’s Daisy Gardener said: “Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton have made major commitments to increase the gender diversity of their workforce.” “Increase the number of women while failing to develop the necessary systems, policies and procedures to ensure that these women are at work. Security, this is not gender equality.”

The bar chart shows the number of female employees (%) of BHP Billiton and its goal of achieving gender balance by 2025

A report by the Australian Human Rights Commission last year showed that in the past five years, about three-quarters of female miners have experienced sexual harassment, and women in male-dominated workplaces are at higher risk.

Jess Gilbert, a researcher at the Center for Transformative Work Design at the University of Perth, said that given the “dangerous, rough, dirty, and technical” work, the “super masculine” culture can easily be reflected in the mining industry. “This makes discrimination, devaluation and harassment more permissible in society, thereby affecting women.”

This problem is not unique to Australia. When Susan Lomas got her first job as a geologist in a Canadian mine in the late 1980s, some of her colleagues posted pornographic images in her work area. When she removed them, a male colleague threatened to break her finger with a rock crusher.

“It’s really shocking. I talked to the chief geologist, he talked to the mine director, and he just told them to stop. But I had to continue working with them,” Lomas told the Financial Times “.

Susan Lomas

Geologist Susan Lomas launched #MeTooMining in 2017 and started reaching out to other victims of harassment © Sherry Nelsen/Fresh Air Photography

On another occasion, she had to fight a geologist who tried to forcibly enter her room after drinking.

“It really depends on the culture of the workplace,” Lomas said. “Sometimes the culture is great, but sometimes the workplace culture is enterprising, management [were] Far away. .. Especially if drinking is allowed in the fly-in and fly-out camp, many of them do. “

Inspired by #MeToo mobile, Lomas established #MeTooMining in 2017 and began contacting other victims of harassment and advocating the company to take more measures to protect female workers.

Some of the most distressing incidents of violence against women occurred in South Africa. In 2012, a colleague raped and murdered Binki Mosian at the British and American platinum mines, which prompted the union to launch a campaign for safer working conditions for women.

Australia’s mining industry expressed its commitment to reforms to improve women’s safety and welcomed the investigation by the Western Australian State Assembly.

Productivity cost per capita ($'000) bar chart shows that the Australian mining industry has been hit by costs associated with workplace sexual harassment

Paul Everingham, chief executive of the Western Australia Chamber of Minerals and Energy, said: “It would be an escape to suggest that there are only a few bad apples in the industry.”

“If you want people to work for you, then you must have a safe and respectful workplace. If sexual harassment or rape occurs, we must also provide appropriate support and comfort to make people feel comfortable and report it,” Fringham said.

The Australian Minerals Commission issued a new industry code of conduct last week aimed at eliminating sexual harassment.

BHP Billiton has made policy adjustments to its remote camps. This month, it restricted employees from drinking four glasses of standard alcoholic beverages a day. It also plans to spend 120 million Australian dollars this year to improve safety and upgrade camps, including installing more closed-circuit televisions, providing safe escorts and additional security for women.

Employees of BHP Billiton and other mining companies have been receiving training on respectful behaviors.

Workplace experts say the industry’s efforts to recruit and promote more women can alleviate the cultural crisis.

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BHP Billiton is the industry leader, with female employees accounting for 26.5% of its employees, although this is still far below its target of 50-50 employees. The figures for Rio Tinto and Fortescue are slightly less than one-fifth. The latter is led by Elizabeth Gaines and its board of directors is composed of four women and five men.

A big concern among executives and women’s advocates is that the recent scandal will prevent people from entering the industry.

“A few underrepresented workers of gender, race, or other culture know that they are valuable commodities [mining] Company,” Lomas said.

“They have a very low tolerance for inappropriate workplace culture. If they feel insecure, isolated, disrespectful or observe that this happens to other people without meaningful consequences, they will soon be in another place. Find a job in one location.”

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