Western Australia’s mining industry probe uncovers numerous cases of sexual abuses

Western Australia’s mining industry probe uncovers numerous cases of sexual abuses
FILE PHOTO: A stacker unloads iron ore onto a pile at a mine located in the Pilbara region of Western Australia December 2, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

A report released on Thursday by the government of Western Australia has brought to light some horrific and dark corners of the nation’s multibillion-dollar mining industry, where workers are often sent to remote pockets of the country to work on mining projects for weeks on end. After a number of women went to the police with sexual assault claims at major Western Australian mines, a year-long investigation was launched, which found that the industry has failed to protect its women. The companies named included mining giants like BHP, Fortescue and Rio Tinto. All three confirmed that they had fired people over harassment complaints.

One woman facing an investigation after a near-miss incident was told by her supervisor that he would make the investigation go away if she had sex with him. Another woman was told she would have to get on her knees if she wanted a permanent position. And yet another woman was knocked unconscious only to wake and find her jeans and underwear around her ankles. Countless women were also harassed with provocative photo requests.

Key comments:

“It is completely inexcusable and simply shocking that this could be taking place in the 21st century in one of the state’s most lucrative industries,” said Liberal MP Libby Mettam to WA’s Parliament. “This represents a failure of the industry to protect its workers and raises real questions about why the government was not better across this safety issue.”

“I was shocked and appalled well beyond expectation by the size and depth of the problem,” said Mettam in the report. “To hear the lived reality of the taunts, attacks and targeted violence, the devastation and despair the victims experienced, the threats to or loss of their livelihood that resulted was shattering and completely inexcusable.”

“I am of the belief we have serious sexual predators hidden within the sector. They have been there for many years and still go unchallenged,” said committee member Mark Folkard in Parliament in an emotional speech.