The biggest mining conference of the year cancelled its session on “tackling gender bias” in the sector
Maria Ezpeleta was planning to fly to Toronto earlier this month to speak about the impact of mining projects on women when she heard the news: The panel session, on “tackling gender bias” in the mining sector, was called off.
In an ironic twist, the discussion of gender bias had been ensnared by #MeToo — the growing movement to stop sexual harassment — because new accusations were surfacing against men linked to Ezpeleta’s organization, Oxfam.
The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, which hosts one of the oldest and largest mining conferences in the world, scrapped the session from this year’s agenda, citing negative news surrounding panel organizer Oxfam, a U.K. charity, which faces allegations it covered up for ex-workers in Haiti accused of using prostitutes.
At a time when sexual harassment in the workplace is receiving heightened attention, the organizers’ decision to disband the panel is raising questions about whether it speaks to a broader indifference in the mining industry to widespread gender problems.
In addition to suffering from one of the lowest proportions of female workers, there is growing criticism from outside organizations that mining projects disproportionately harm women in the surrounding communities, with incidents of sexual exploitation and rape brought up, in addition to other consequences.