Mining Chose This Toxic Culture. It’s Time for a Change – by David Fickling (Bloomberg News – February 4, 2022)

(Bloomberg Opinion) — Life in a mining camp in 2022 can often seem little different to conditions that prevailed a century ago. “[I have a] fear of violence. [There are] catcalls, advances made in camp when you are alone,” one Rio Tinto Group employee at a remote mine site told an internal commission into workplace culture which reported on Feb. 1.

“The men would sit on the stools and watch every single female that walked past. Some made comments. Some just stared … I ended up feeling so uncomfortable that I started making sure I had a buddy to walk to dinner and back with every single night — even when it wasn’t dark.”

Almost half of people who spoke to the inquiry reported bullying in the workplace. More than a quarter of women endured sexual harassment, and 21 actual or attempted rapes or sexual assaults were reported. About 12% had experienced racism, including around a third of Indigenous people at the company’s Australian sites.

If that litany of vile behavior seems familiar, it’s because similar incidents seem to have played out in mining towns throughout history. “Can’t ye imagine what it’s like — bein’ a woman in a place like this? And a woman they think good-lookin’!” lamented Mary Burke, one of the protagonists of Upton Sinclair’s 1917 novel King Coal. “Some one’s always troublin’ us women!

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