MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Sexual harassment in mine camps, reports

Published by MAC on 2021-08-28
Source: Hcamag.com, CBC, News.com.au, MPR, Nunatsiaq

Unsurprisingly, if nonetheless depressingly, this problem is not unique to Canada and the US.

The number of reports about sexual harassment on the mining industry are growing. Find below some very good examples of this trend:

"Never Until Now: Indigenous and Racialized Women's Experiences Working in Yukon and Northern British Columbia Mine Camps", by Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society (LAWS), August 2021

Audible documentary "No Place for a Woman" (50 minutes), by Minnesota Public Radio, June 2021

"Addressing Inuit Women’s Economic Security and Prosperity in the Resource Extraction Industry" by Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, March 2021

Previous coverage on MAC:

2014-02-02 UN Special Rapporteur: Oil, Gas & Mining Operations Brings Increased Sexual Violence

2003-04-15 Women in Mining Struggles in India

BHP workers fired after reports of sexual harassment

Nearly 50 workers at Australian mining giant BHP have been fired or banned over reports of sexual harassment in the workplace.


Dexter Tilo
 
Hcamag.com

24 Aug 2021

In a submission to a parliament inquiry into sexual harassment in the mining industry, the company revealed that at least 48 workers have been removed from their posts for cases of harassment, the Financial Review reported.

There have been 73 reports of sexual harassment and 18 cases of sexual assault received by the company over the past 24 months - all of which were reported to the police, according to the BBC.

"Of these 73 reports, 48 have resulted in termination or otherwise permanent removal of the respondent from our company and any of its worksites," BHP told the inquiry.

Since July 2019, there have also been two cases of rape and one case of attempted rape in the iron ore workforce. Investigations also upheld reports of women being kissed and having their breasts touched without their consent.

Meanwhile, similar reports are still under investigation, the company said. BHP admitting that cases of sexual harassment is a problem in their workforce and the wider mining industry.

"We are deeply sorry and apologise unreservedly to those who have experienced, or continue to experience, any form of sexual harassment in our workplaces," the company said in its submission.

Critics cited by the BBC said the culture of male domination and drinking flourished in these types of workplaces, which has allowed harassment to manifest among its employees.

Due to recent court cases, a parliament inquiry into sexual harassment of women in the fly-in, fly-out industry has been launched by the government.

Cases at Rio and Fortescue

However, BHC is not the only company plagued with sexual harassment cases, as miners like Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals admitted to facing such problems too.

Fortescue's submission to the parliament inquiry disclosed 30 reports of sexual harassment in its workplace since January 2020, 20 of which had taken place this year.

Rio Tinto, on the other hand, revealed that in the past 18 months, the company had one rape case and another one under probe, as well as 29 reports of sexual harassment with another 14 under investigation.

According to the mining company, the high number of cases can be attributed to victims and bystanders becoming more comfortable in reporting such incidents.

Resolving sexual harassment cases

To help improve the situation at the workplace, the three iron ore giants said they have set gender equality targets.

BHP said it is investing AU$300 million to make its mining camps safer for women. It has also deployed security guards since November, improved lighting systems, installed security cameras, and upgraded the locks in their worker rooms.

The company has also implemented the Ask-for-Angela service, which uses the word "Angela" as a safe word for workers who need help while on site, as well as rolled out the use of the SafeZone mobile app across its accommodation sites.

BHP, as well as Rio Tinto, also launched a crackdown against alcohol consumption at the mining camps, as this could be a precedent to sexual assault or harassment.



Report documents 'degrading' treatment of Indigenous women at Yukon and B.C. mines

73 per cent of women interviewed experienced harassment, discrimination and violence at mining camps.

Julien Gignac

CBC News

Aug 04, 2021

She had a ritual that involved loading and reloading a shotgun in front of a group of men.

The message seemed clear enough: Stay away.

"I would sleep with it right next to my bed, sometimes right in the bed next to me, and I'd have my bear spray right there, too," said the unidentified woman who is quoted in a new report documenting the experiences of Indigenous women and women of colour at mining camps in Yukon and Northern B.C.

The report, titled "Never Until Now," was commissioned by the non-profit Liard Aboriginal Women's Society. It suggests that women are often assigned low-paying, menial jobs at mines because of their gender — and it's those very roles that often compromise their personal safety.

"The study demonstrates the mining industry's colonial ethic of exploitation by revealing the degrading ways that Indigenous and racialized women mine workers are treated, both in the workplace and in their camp living conditions," the report reads.

"This discrimination thwarts dignified working conditions and jeopardizes women's personal safety and longevity of work security."

The report is largely based on interviews with 22 women — roughly half of whom belong to Yukon First Nations — between October 2020 and March 2021.

Workplaces include hard rock, exploration, placer, reclamation and field monitoring camps located in five mining districts: Watson Lake, Mayo, Dawson City and Whitehorse in Yukon, as well as Northern B.C.

One participant compared working at an isolated mining camp for an extended period to Alcatraz — the former U.S. federal prison located on an island just off the coast of California near San Francisco.

"That's what we called it because you got to go get across the river and get back in order to get out, and then we have to shut off all the lights at like 11 o'clock," the woman told the report's authors.
 
'They want change'

Ann Maje Raider, the executive director of the Liard Aboriginal Women's Society, told CBC that women have experienced problems at mines for decades, but this is the first time these issues have been compiled in a report.

"Something needs to be done," she said.

"That's the reason the women trusted us to interview them, because they said they want change, and they don't want to see other women coming behind them to suffer the same things they have."

The report states that 73 per cent of respondents have experienced sexual and racial harassment, discrimination and violence.

Nearly two-thirds of the women surveyed said there was either no avenue for lodging complaints or the process was "unclear, unknown or they did not feel safe to report."

Fifty-five per cent of participants said they don't feel safe at camp.

Spokespeople with the Yukon government and the Yukon Chamber of Mines didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
Women cite poor working conditions, lack of overtime

Participants reported economic insecurity in Yukon's mining sector, part and parcel of limited job opportunities, according to the report, which states that many respondents worked as cooks and housekeepers.

More than half of respondents say they never received promotions. A minority of participants said they worked as environmental monitors and as heavy equipment operators — examples of higher paying jobs.

Nearly all respondents reported working at least 60-hour weeks, with only 27 per cent of participants reporting they received overtime pay. Thirty-six per cent of respondents said their pay was commensurate with the number of hours they worked.

"Participants reported poor working conditions, such as women's concentration in overworked, underpaid job ghettos, high rates of harassment and discrimination, and fear or experience of rape," the report states.

While the majority of respondents indicated work in the sector improved financial security, 32 per cent said the industry didn't provide financial security, mainly because of low pay drawn out over long hours.

"Indigenous and racialized women isolated in a masculine working environment are undervalued and have limited opportunity for advancement, scholarship and training," the report states.

It said that less than five per cent of workers at half of the surveyed mines identified as women.
 
Next steps

The report includes several recommendations, such as including Indigenous women in the creation of policies, legislation and strategies that seek to keep women safe and uphold their social and economic rights.

"Women would feel safer if, you know, they had a couple of elders out there so that the people on our land would know the power of our language, our culture and the way that we operate," said Carla Boss, an Indigenous woman from Lower Post, B.C., who helped interview some of the women.

The report also calls for the creation of support groups for women at mine camps.

Such groups could provide recourse to women in potentially dangerous situations and "identify improved management responses with clear timelines and procedures to report, investigate and respond to complaints of harassment, discrimination and violence."



Mining sector must do ‘dinosaur rehab’ as sexual harassment, rape allegations embroil industry, top exec tells Diggers

As shocking allegations of sexual harassment and rape embroil the mining sector, one top executive has called for ‘dinosaur rehabilitation’.

Rebecca Le May
 
News.com.au

August 3, 2021

A top mining executive has weighed in on the sexual harassment and rape allegations scandal embroiling the industry, saying “dinosaurs” need to be rehabilitated, not just sent down the road, as they’ll just wind up unchanged somewhere else.

Several cases relating to claims at operations in Western Australia’s Pilbara region are before the courts and a WA parliamentary inquiry has been established to investigate inappropriate behaviour towards women in the sector, with the state’s Chamber of Minerals and Energy labelling such instances “totally unacceptable”.

At the Diggers & Dealers mining conference in Kalgoorlie on Tuesday, Pilbara Minerals chief executive Ken Brinsden said it was “a better industry than a lot of the behaviour that unfolded in the last 12 months”.

“So I encourage you all – work harder on the culture in and around our workforce, in and around our work sites, in and around our camps,” Mr Brinsden said.

“We can do a much better job.

“And if you have a dinosaur, who hasn’t got with the program, don’t just immediately send him down the road, because somebody else is going to pick up that same problem.

“Let’s have a crack at rehabilitating individuals, turning them around, making them better people.

“And to my mind, that’s going to be a much more sophisticated and better industry response to what represents a reasonably serious challenge to the future of our industry.

“If we’re going to get the other 50 per cent of the gender balance into our workforce, we’ve got to do it better than we’re doing today.”



APM Audible Documentary: No Place for a Woman

Minnesota Public Radio

June 14, 2021

The APM documentary "No Place for a Woman" tells a Minnesota story, but it became well-known nationwide.

It's about the women who worked in the mines in northern Minnesota, and what they faced on and off the job.

They eventually filed a sexual harassment suit against Eveleth Taconite on Minnesota's Iron Range.

It was the first successful sexual harassment class action lawsuit in the nation.

The story of the women working in the mines became a 2005 Hollywood movie and earlier that year Minnesota Public Radio's Stephanie Hemphill and Catherine Winter produced this documentary about it.



Sexual harassment of Inuit women at mines no surprise: Pauktuutit president

Reports of stalking, indecent exposure and forced consumption of substances.

Mélanie Ritchot
 
Nunatsiaq.com

Apr 9, 2021

Rebecca Kudloo lives in Baker Lake and has heard stories from her friends who work at the nearby Meadowbank gold mine.

That’s why the president of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada isn’t surprised to hear more than half of Inuit women working in the mining industry who responded to a recent survey say they have experienced sexual harassment at work.

“One time a woman told me she quit her job because her boss didn’t respect her,” she said.

“Another told me a story when she worked as a janitor, where this man came out of his room stark naked.”

The experiences of 29 Inuit women from Arviat, Baker Lake, Inuvik and Salluit working in the resource extraction industry are outlined in the report released by Pauktuutit on March 31.

Reported incidents include unwanted sexual touching, stalking or being chased, indecent exposure, sharing explicit photographs without permission, and forced consumption of substances.

Inuit women often don’t report sexual harassment and violence out of fear of losing their jobs, shame or stigma, the report states. Women also note most human resource employees they would have to report to are not Inuit.

One of Pauktuutit’s recommendations in the report is for companies to hire more women and Inuit women in management and human resources positions. It also recommends offering support services in Inuktitut and having another woman present when an employee comes forward to report.

“If a woman is there, I think women would feel more comfortable talking to them,” said Kudloo.

A few women said actions were taken against them when they reported to human resources departments and one woman said she was told to keep quiet about an incident, the report states.

Other women said they did feel supported when reporting incidents and one woman said her company checked in on her and made her feel safe.

Forty-five per cent of the women surveyed said they have not experienced sexual violence or harassment at work. Others reported having these experiences more than 10 times.

Many women surveyed did not know if workplace sexual harassment policies existed or that mental health services were available to victims, the report states. Pauktuutit recommended more education on available resources.

Kudloo said it’s also important to have policies written in plain language instead of legal jargon.

Agnico Eagle Mines, the largest mining company in Nunavut, has a zero-tolerance policy for violence or sexual harassment. Harassment or lack of civility can lead to disciplinary action or dismissal, according to spokesperson Carl Charest, who provided Nunatsiaq News with a copy of the company’s discrimination and harassment policy.

Women represent about 34 per cent of Agnico’s Inuit workforce in Nunavut, Charest said in an email.

Since 2018, more than 3,306 of Agnico’s employees have gone through a mandatory training session on respect in the workplace, Charest said.

Heather Smiles, a spokesperson for Baffinland Iron Mines Corp., said she could not provide Nunatsiaq News with the company’s harassment policy.

“But I can say Baffinland has zero tolerance for any form of workplace harassment and takes firm and immediate actions to investigate all reports of workplace harassment,” she said in an email.

She also said Baffinland offers counselling support to victims of harassment.

Smiles did not say how many Inuit women work for the company when asked, but said Baffinland is focused on increasing the number of Inuit women in its workforce.

Kudloo said, “we’re not targeting a specific company, we are saying, ‘please change this so women feel safe working in the industry.’”

“We want women to feel safe in their workplace … so women feel they can contribute to the economy and support their families without fear.”

Other barriers for Inuit women to enter the mining industry listed in the report include two-week shift rotations.

“It’s a big worry for a woman … two weeks is a long time not to see your baby,” said Kudloo.

She said some women can’t enter the industry because of a lack of childcare options.

Pauktuutit’s report recommends providing more on-site childcare options and offering flexible work schedules and rotations.

Other recommendations include giving women alarm devices like phones or emergency buttons to be used if they don’t feel safe.

The study builds on research Pauktuutit did in 2014, 2016 and 2020.
 
 
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