The boss of BHP has used the mining giant’s annual general meeting to warn sexual predators on its sites they will face “consequences” as an ongoing West Australian parliamentary inquiry continues to reveal the problem is rampant.
The inquiry was sparked by various disturbing allegations that have hit headlines and courts this year, including a claim of rape at BHP’s Mulla Mulla accommodation village near its new South Flank iron ore mine in the Pilbara.
BHP in August told the investigation it had fired 48 workers for sexual assault and sexual harassment at its WA mining operations since 2019.
Chief executive Mike Henry told investors on Thursday the company was frustrated that instances of sexual harassment and assault in its accommodation camps and operations continued.
“This conduct is completely unacceptable and we are absolutely committed to eliminating it from BHP,” Mr Henry said.
“This year, we introduced a policy to limit alcohol consumption at our Australian camps and launched a dedicated support service providing assistance to anyone in our workforce impacted by sexual assault or harassment.
“We’ve focused initiatives on education and onsite security, with a further A$300m committed for security improvements in 2022.
“We also continue to take an approach to ensuring consequences for those that behave badly that is designed to send a clear message that there is simply no place for this conduct in our workplaces.
“We are determined to create and maintain an environment at BHP where we attract and retain the best talent.”
Creating the right environment was critical for the miner to meet its plan to achieve gender balance in its workforce by 2025, shareholders were told.
Chairman Ken MacKenzie said female representation was currently 30 per cent — up from 17 per cent when the pledge was first announced— so good progress was being made.
Rio Tinto informed the inquiry in August that since January 1 last year, it had substantiated one case of sexual assault and 29 cases of sexual harassment within its FIFO operations, and was investigating one allegation of sexual assault and 14 reports of sexual harassment.
On Wednesday, contracting giant Macmahon told the inquiry the company had received 18 sexual harassment complaints over the past five years, with just two of those in 2020 surging to 11 this year.
Of the 11 reports, five resulted in termination, with two reported to police.
Macmahon is one of the companies at the centre of a submission by mother of two Astacia Stevens, who claimed she was fired the day after refusing a sex proposition by a superintendent heading an investigation into her haul truck almost hitting another.
She also claimed that while working for labour hire agency DT Workforce at a Rio Tinto site, a superintendent told her that if she wanted to get “her shirt” – meaning she would gain a permanent job with the mining giant – she would “have to get on your knees first”.
Macmahon chief executive Michael Finnegan told the inquiry on Wednesday the reports were “incredibly confronting” and a lot of work had to be done to fix the widespread problem.