Women don’t feel safe underground in SA mines. – Amplats’ Viljoen

WOMEN don’t feel safe working underground in South African mines, said Bloomberg News reporting the comments of Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) CEO, Natascha Viljoen.

Speaking at the PGM Industry conference last week, Viljoen said it was critical the industry in South Africa included the concerns of women when talking about modernising the workplace. “The workplace in the past has been designed by men for men,” Viljoen said told the newswire.

“It’s not designed for a fully inclusive workplace, so as we go into the modernisation of mining how do we think differently around the design of the workplace, we can be very impactful on how we address these issues in society and in our physical design of the workplace,” she said.

Bloomberg News said that while the mining industry’s toxic culture is no secret, an explosive report from Rio Tinto in February laid bare the scale and severity of the problem. The abuse of women in mines from Australia to South Africa is increasing investor scrutiny of the world’s biggest mining companies.

“I was not surprised by the Rio Tinto report,” Viljoen. “If anybody tells me we don’t face the same challenge in South Africa, I would say you are naive.”

The Rio Tinto investigation found that more than a quarter of female workers had experienced sexual harassment and almost half of all staff have been victims of bullying. Sexual harassment in the cages has been a problem for years in South Africa.

Viljoen said she had discussions with a female employee who expressed a preference for wearing the existing one-piece overalls, even though they were less comfortable than a two-piece alternative. “To my surprise, she feels safer with a one piece overall because she says it’s more trouble to take off the one piece overall if anybody wants to assault her,” said Viljoen.

“If that doesn’t go to the guts of our values and our integrity as an industry, then I don’t think anything does.”