Gender balance in mining still needs addressing

A Responsible Mining Index (RMI) report detailing the work practices of 30 leading mining companies suggests there is room for improvement when addressing gender balance in the workforce.

Only 20 per cent of the companies surveyed showed evidence that they took a systemic approach to protecting female workers from harassment and sexual exploitation, for example.

The report also stated that community engagement could be improved when it comes to the participation of women in local business development and community engagement activities.

On a management level, the report also stated there was “little or no evidence” that leadership was working to address gender balance in leadership and governance.

“The companies scored an average of only 4.5 per cent on the question of implementing interventions to bolster the diversity and inclusivity of their boards and senior management,” a report summary stated.

“These results tie in with other research that has shown very low levels of women’s participation at these levels.

“None of the companies show any evidence of tracking their performance on managing the impacts of their activities on women.

“Reviewing and improving how they manage the impacts of mining on women in the workplace and within affected communities can enable companies to better address the serious risks and disadvantages faced by women.”

In addition, less than one-third of applicable surveyed companies also showed evidence of having developing systemic plans with respect to Indigenous peoples.

Another area cited as needing improvement was community wellbeing, the category with “the largest number of low-performing companies relative to other thematic areas,” according to the report.

The RMI 2018 report broke up company performance into six categories: economic development, business conduct, lifecycle management, community wellbeing, working conditions, and environmental responsibility.

The 10 companies that achieved the strongest overall results varied substantially in each category, and the report stated that company performance in each category did not appear to be dictated by commodity, geography or the size of the company.

Anglo American was the highest performer overall, appearing in the top three companies for all six categories, including three first-place positions.

One company that achieved particularly poor results in the report was Uzbekistan-based Navoi Mining and Metallurgy Combinat (NMMC), which scored the lowest of the 30 companies in five out of six categories.

According to the RMI 2018 study, the surveyed companies which included several other Australian and international mining majors such as Glencore, BHP, Rio Tinto, Vale, Newmont Mining, Teck Resources and Barrick Gold displayed a “fairly even” distribution of performance with regards to working conditions.

This similarity across the board was attributed to the companies’ focus on the improvement of occupational health and safety (OHS), with nearly all companies in the study having made formal commitments to a “safe and healthy workplace environment”.

AngloGold Ashanti and Anglo American were cited as the top performers in this category, which had commitments in place to address the risk of “poor labour practices, such as the use of forced and child labour”, according to the report.

However, the report also inferred that this commitment to OHS came at the expense of commitments in other areas related to meeting or exceeding living wage standards, tracking the performance of worker grievance mechanisms and and preventing discrimination in the workplace.

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