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Mining giant BHP says it has fired at least 48 workers for sexual assaults and harassment at its Western Australia mining camps since Australia's richest mining companies are facing intense scrutiny over the treatment of women at their isolated sites.
Recent court cases have prompted a state government inquiry into sexual harassment at mining locations. Several companies have admitted the problem and pledged to make changes.
Other miners, including Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals, also reported allegations but did not disclose if they had sacked workers. The companies run large operations in the remote Pilbara region, to unearth iron ore and other minerals. Thousands of workers are flown in each season and housed in village camp-style accommodation.
Critics say a hard-drinking, male-dominated culture has been allowed to flourish for years. BHP - Australia's largest miner - told the inquiry that it recognised sexual harassment in its camps was a problem.
Betweenit received 18 reports of sexual assault and 73 of sexual harassment among its 13,strong workforce. All had been reported to police.
Internal investigations had "substantiated" allegations of two rapes, one attempted rape, and three cases of forced kissing or groping, the miner said. Three other sexual assault allegations were still being investigated.
Female workers had endured unwanted touching and advances, and inappropriate texts and pictures from colleagues, the company added. It said it encouraged employees to report other incidents. Recent improvements included around-the-clock security, better lighting, more CCTV cameras and putting chains on room doors.
It has also restricted workers to four alcoholic drinks a day, and banned drinking after Fortescue Metals and Rio said they had also committed to improving workplace safety and training programmes for employees. It also found mining outranked other industries for the prevalence of harassment, and of harassers.
One female former worker told the ABC that "young girls come to site… and she's just seen as meat [by male workers]". Image source, Getty Images.
Allegations at Western Australia mines 91 at BHP, including six substantiated sexual assaults and 73 of harassment 53 at Rio Tinto, including one substantiated sexual assault and 29 of harassment 31 allegations at Fortescue Metals of sexual harassment Source: Western Australia Parliament inquiry into sexual harassment against women in the FIFO mining industry.