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Women don’t feel safe in South African mines

Although the mining industry’s toxic culture is public knowledge, an explosive report from from Rio Tinto Group in February laid bare the stark truth of the problem. Women abuse in mines, from Australia to South Africa, is increasingly scrutinized by investigating officers of the world’s biggest mining conglomerates.

“I was not surprised by the Rio Tinto report,” Viljoen, CEO of Anglo American Platinum, said at a mining conference in Johannesburg yesterday. “If anybody tells me we don’t face the same challenge in South Africa, I would say you are naive.”

The Rio Tinto reported that more than a quarter of female workers had experienced sexual harassment and almost half of all staff have been victims of bullying.

Sexual harassment in the cages, or elevators, has been a problem for years in South Africa.

Viljoen said she had discussions with a female employee who expressed a preference for wearing the existing one-piece overalls, even though they were less comfortable than a two-piece alternative.

“To my surprise, she feels safer with a one piece overall because she says it’s more trouble to take off the one piece overall if anybody wants to assault her,” said Viljoen, one of the few women to be running a major mining company.

“If that doesn’t go to the guts of our values and our integrity as an industry, then I don’t think anything does. While the abuse of women is also a societal issue in South Africa, the mining industry must take responsibility for addressing the challenges it faces”, the Amplats CEO said.

“The miner has in the past dismissed senior employees in a bid to enforce a healthier working culture”, Viljoen said. “The workplace in the past has been designed by men for men”.

“It’s not designed for a fully inclusive workplace, so as we go into the modernization of mining, how do we think differently around the design of the workplace, we can be very impactful on how we address these issues in society and in our physical design of the workplace.” — Bloomberg.

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