Sustainable Business

Australia's iron ore majors to start sexual harassment prevention in schools

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A worker checks a truck loaded with iron ore at the Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) Christmas Creek iron ore mine located south of Port Hedland in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, November 17, 2015. Picture taken November 17, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Regan

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MELBOURNE, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Australia's iron ore giants have agreed to establish and fund education programmes in schools and training centres in Western Australia aimed at preventing sexual harassment, racism and bullying, as they battle to improve the industry's diversity.

Sexual harassment is rife at mining camps in Western Australia, which provides more than half of the world's supply of iron ore, submissions to a government inquiry showed in August. read more

The inquiry, which will report its findings next year, was initiated after high-profile cases of sexual assault by miners emerged, and as the sector struggles with a dire skills shortage and a low proportion of female staff.

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In a joint statement, Rio Tinto (RIO.AX), BHP Group (BHP.AX) and Fortescue Metals Group (FMG.AX) said they had agreed to fund learning programmes to prevent sexual harassment, bullying and racism which will be deployed through vocational training centres, universities and high schools.

The programmes will form part of core studies for Western Australian students who hope to work for the big miners which are among the state's top employers, before being rolled out to other industries and parts of the country.

"We recognise that we have some way to go to achieve workplaces free from sexual harassment, bullying and racism across our industry and we are committed to making the changes needed to create a safer work environment where respectful behaviour is experienced by everyone," Rio Tinto's iron ore chief Simon Trott said in the statement.

In a 2020 report, the Australian Human Rights Commission inquiry into sexual harassment found that 74% of women in the mining industry had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the past five years, partly due to the gender imbalance. read more

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Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

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