21 female staffers faced sexual assault at Rio Tinto in 5 years

Rio Tinto, an Anglo-Australian mining company, claims that 21 of its female employees have been sexually assaulted or raped at work in the last five years.

The mining behemoth, which has operations in 35 countries, did not disclose any information about the accidents or where they occurred.

However, the figures were released in a larger workplace culture assessment, which showed widespread sexism, racism, and bullying at the company.

It comes after recent scrutiny of how women are treated in mining camps.

Following a number of court proceedings and media stories, Western Australia’s state government initiated an investigation into the matter last year.

Rio Tinto is one of Western Australia’s largest operators of remote mining sites. It told the panel last year that it was aware of issues but would not elaborate.

BHP, Rio’s competitor, told the inquiry around the same time that it has fired at least 48 workers for sexual assaults and harassment at its mining camps since 2019.

Both firms, which are among Australia’s wealthiest, operate substantial iron ore, copper, and other mineral exploration projects in the state’s remote Pilbara region.

Each season, tens of thousands of workers are brought in and housed in village camps. Critics have long expressed worry about the hard-drinking, male-dominated culture that has flourished at these locations.

Rio’s report on Tuesday did not say if the claimed assaults took place in the fly-in, fly-out (Fifo) camps.

However, it was discovered that the sites had greater instances of sexual harassment. In general, roughly 28% of women and 7% of males said they had been sexually harassed in Rio. Female workers at Fifo locations, on the other hand, had a rate of 41%.

“Women at Fifo worksites spoke of eating alone in their rooms to avoid harassment in the dining hall and gym,” according to the report. “They also spoke of avoiding going out after dark, of poor lighting and security, and of harassing and even threatening behaviour from male colleagues when they were walking to their accommodation after work.”

 

Anonymized quotes from female workers were also included in the report:

  • If you’re looking for a “Contractors have been peeking into our bathrooms. We’ve been requesting locks. We were unable to locate a secure restroom.”
  • If you’re looking for a “Men shouting for me to join them for drinks as I walk to my room in camp. I decline nicely. Then you’re considered a frigid bitch, and so on. Aggression is frightening; there were five of them, all huge, strong males, standing close outside my door. I felt threatened and uneasy.”

The audit also stated that the company’s “hierarchical, male-dominated culture” had resulted in “risk factors.” Men make up over 79 percent of the company’s employees.

Bullying and racism were also prevalent in Rio Tinto’s larger working culture, according to the research, with nearly half of employees experiencing bullying.

“Harmful behaviour is frequently tolerated or accepted. Serial offenders’ heinous acts are frequently kept hidden “According to the research,

“We are very saddened by these findings,” Rio Tinto responded, “and we truly apologise to every team member, past or present, who has suffered as a result of these behaviours.”

It said it would implement the report’s 26 recommendations, with an emphasis on leadership and diversity, camp amenities, and making it simpler for individuals to “call out unacceptable behaviour.”

Elizabeth Broderick, Australia’s former national sex discrimination commissioner, conducted the study in March of last year.

A quarter of the workforce, or 10,000 employees, answered to the query and took part in a survey.

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