Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto has published a damning external review of its workplace culture.
The report, carried out by former Australian sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, suggested bullying, sexual harassment and racism were widespread problems across the company.
Its findings included 21 complaints of actual or attempted rape or sexual assault over the past five years, with nearly 30 per cent of women and seven per cent of men experiencing sexual harassment at work during their time at the company.
More than 10,000 employees, nearly a quarter of its 45,000-strong workplace shared their experiences and views for the review.
The research was conducted via an online survey, as well as through more than 100 group listening sessions, 85 confidential individual listening sessions and close to 140 individual written submissions.
Nearly half the respondents said they had been bullied, while racism was found to be common across a number of areas.
This was particularly the case concerning respondents working in a country different to their birth, while nearly 40 per cent of men who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander in Australia said they had experienced racism.
Rio Tinto launched the review in March last year, in the wake of a widespread backlash against the company after it blasted the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge rock shelters to expand an iron ore mine.
Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm said: “The findings of this report are deeply disturbing to me and should be to everyone who reads them. I offer my heartfelt apology to every team member, past or present, who has suffered as a result of these behaviours. This is not the kind of company we want to be.”
He said the mining company would implement all 26 recommendations from the report with a focus on three areas: creating a safe, respectful and inclusive working environment, ensuring the company’s camp and village facilities are safe and inclusive, and making it as easy and as safe as possible for people to report unacceptable behaviours.
Stausholm added: “I am grateful to everyone who has come forward to share their experiences as we go about this vital work.”
Commenting on her findings, Broderick claimed this report is not a reason for reduced confidence in Rio Tinto.
She explained: “By proactively commissioning this study, one of the largest of its kind within the resources industry, it demonstrates a very clear commitment to increased transparency, accountability and action. The high levels of confidence among employees that a significant impact can be made in the next two years are an encouraging sign that change can happen.”
Rio Tinto’s report comes ahead of the release of another report by the Western Australia state government later this year on sexual harassment at mining camps in the state, which provides more than half of the world’s supply of iron ore.
Submissions to the inquiry last year said sexual harassment was rife at mining camps in Western Australia, which is home to mines of global firms including BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue.
In a 2020 report, an Australian human rights commission inquiry into sexual harassment found that 74 per cent of women in the mining industry had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the past five years, partly due to a gender imbalance.
Nearly 80 per cent of Rio Tinto’s workforce is male.
Stausholm said Juukan Gorge had triggered the biggest management change in the history of Rio Tinto and the new team wanted to drive more change.
He said: “Its a matter of using the momentum of the moment now and try to move these actions forward fast because we cannot change these from one day to another.”