An inquiry launched by the Western Australia Parliament has found widespread harassment at mining camps in the region since 2019, with one company sacking, at least, 48 employees for sexual assault and misconduct.

The parliamentary investigation was formally launched in July 2021 in the wake of a report from the Australian Human Rights Commission that found 74% of women in the country’s mining industry had suffered some form of sexual harassment since 2015, compared to 39% of female employees in other sectors. 

The government inquiry is currently accepting public submissions, which have highlighted the scale of the problem throughout the industry, putting Australia’s mining companies under intense scrutiny over the treatment of women at remote mining camps.

Numerous mining companies, including Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals, have accepted that there is a problem and promised to make changes to address the situation, with mining giant BHP sacking at least 48 workers in the last two years over sexual misconduct. Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals did not reveal how many, if any, workers have been fired.

Mining camps across Australia host thousands of workers who are flown in and provided with accommodation in camps. Between 2019 and 2021, BHP recorded 18 reports of sexual assault and 73 allegations of sexual harassment, which were all reported to the relevant authorities. The company has committed to spending $300 million to boost security in camps, adding better lighting, more CCTV and ensuring rooms are secured.

Responding to the situation, BHP apologized “unreservedly to those who have experienced, or continue to experience, any form of sexual harassment in our workplaces.” Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals have agreed to work on improving workplace safety and training.

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