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Rio Tinto admits culture of ‘bullying, sexual harassment, racism’

Australian-based mining giant Rio Tinto released a searing internal report that describes a toxic, white- and male-dominated work culture
Australian-based mining giant Rio Tinto released a searing internal report that describes a toxic, white- and male-dominated work culture - Copyright AFP WILLIAM WEST
Australian-based mining giant Rio Tinto released a searing internal report that describes a toxic, white- and male-dominated work culture - Copyright AFP WILLIAM WEST

Australian-based mining giant Rio Tinto released a searing internal report Tuesday that found sexual assault, bullying and racial discrimination are rife “throughout the company”.

Management ordered the investigation after a string of complaints and scandals, including the blowing-up of an ancient Aboriginal site in Western Australia to expand an iron ore mine.  

The 85-page report — based on information from 10,000 employees gleaned over eight months — described bullying as “systemic” and racism as “common”, while stating that sexual harassment occurs “at unacceptable rates”.

It describes a toxic, white- and male-dominated work culture in which female employees were asked to perform oral sex, catcalled and forced to keep a list of male colleagues to avoid at night.

Rio’s operations span mines, smelters and refineries often in remote Outback locations, with a significant number of the company’s 45,450 workers living on-site and hired on fly-in, fly-out contracts.

Twenty-one women reported actual or attempted rape or sexual assault in the past five years and one third said they had been harassed, according to author Elizabeth Broderick, formerly sex discrimination commissioner of Australia.

“Bullying is systemic, experienced by almost half of the survey respondents,” the report concluded.

Other Rio staff members reported widespread racism in what they described as a “Caucasian oriented” company.

“I’ve copped racism in every single corner of this company,” said one respondent.

CEO Jakob Stausholm said the report’s findings were “deeply disturbing”.

“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.”

The report made 26 recommendations, including changes to management oversight and training, and making sure “women and other minority groups are deployed to operational sites as part of a cohort”.

Rio has tried to soften its public image in recent years, announcing plans to cut direct carbon emissions 50 percent by 2030 and vowing to overhaul a toxic workplace culture.

The revelation in 2020 that Rio had blown up the 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia sparked a public backlash and investor revolt that led then CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques and two top executives to resign.

AFP
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