Australian government to run inquiry into sexual harassment at mining camps

Antamina Zinc Mine in Peru, one of the world's largest

AN inquiry by the Australian government will put the spotlight on sexual harassment in the country’s mineral-rich west, as the sector struggles with a dire skills shortage and low female representation, said Reuters.

Conditions at Western Australia’s mining camps have worsened sexual harassment, the newswire said referring to the practice of workers who live at isolated “fly-in, fly-out” or  FIFO camps for a fortnight at a time.

Women make up roughly one in five FIFO workers and critics say recreation facilities have become hubs for drinking alcohol and created poor camp cultures that miners need to address.

“There are certain geographic and other issues that make FIFO camps a particular high risk area – part of that is the demographics that are on site,” Owen Whittle, a spokesperson for UnionsWA told Reuters. UnionsWA represents 30 workers groups and will make a submission to the inquiry.

A young woman formerly employed at one of Australia’s largest mining companies told Reuters that while her team was “welcoming, sensitive and conscious,” that attitude was not always replicated underground.

“If you are a new employee and there are already about 8-10 male miners down there, you tend to sort of accept a few things here or there that you usually wouldn’t,” said the woman, who declined to be named. “Like swearing, or throwing the c-word around like it’s nothing.”

In her experience her male colleagues were largely respectful to her but she said when there is a group of them that “culture perpetuates.”