Bulk Buys: Rio Tinto reveals sexual harassment, bullying and racism rife at mines in damning report
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A damning report released by Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) yesterday revealed 21 women reported to the review of workplace culture that they had experienced rape, attempted rape or sexual assault in the past five years.
The report commissioned by Rio and compiled by former Australian Sexual Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick found sexual harassment, racism and bullying were systemic across the miner’s global operations.
28.2% of women and 6.7% of men reported experiencing sexual harassment, while 39.8% of men and 31.8% of women of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background reported incidents of racism at Rio’s mines.
Released against the background of last year’s reports into cover ups of sexual assaults on Australian mines, it looms as another area where Rio needs to recover the confidence of its investors and its own workforce.
It has been released less than two years after the destruction of Aboriginal rock caves at Juukan Gorge, an Aboriginal heritage site with evidence of 46,000 years of human habitation, which prompted the sacking of three senior executives including former CEO JS Jacques.
Rio’s Australian iron ore operations, the largest in the world last year with exports of 322Mt, had the highest levels of reported bullying (52%) and sexual harassment (14%) across its global operations.
Women under the age of 35 were far more likely to have experienced sexual harassment, with 53.2% of women and 46.5% of men saying they had experienced bullying on a Rio site over the past five years.
At the same time access to and knowledge of Rio’s confidential reporting channels was extremely low, with just 6.9% of men and 7.9% of women making a formal complaint through its Talk to Peggy and myVoice services; with only 1.9% of men and 4.7% of women reporting their experience of sexual harassment and 7.3% of men and 4.1% reporting their experience of racism.
Numerous employees reported that they feared losing their jobs or suffered repercussions for bringing concerns to senior management and that complaints about sexual harassment were not acted on, with the alleged perpetrators often kept on in their roles.
In responses to a parliamentary inquiry in WA, Rio’s iron ore boss Simon Trott said between January 1, 2017 and October 19, 2021 69 people had been disciplined in relation to sexual assault or harassment allegations, 34 of whom had been terminated.
Rio says it will enact all 26 detailed recommendations from the report, which new CEO Jakob Stausholm described as “deeply disturbing”.
“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.
“I feel shame and enormous regret to have learned the extent to which bullying, sexual harassment and racism are happening at Rio Tinto.
“I am determined that by implementing appropriate actions to address the recommendations, and with the management team’s commitment to a safe, respectful and inclusive Rio Tinto in all areas, we will make positive and lasting change and strengthen our workplace culture for the long term.
“I am grateful to everyone who has come forward to share their experiences as we go about this vital work.”
Despite the damning details contained within the report, Broderick said it “should not be a reason for reduced confidence in Rio Tinto”.
Around 1 in 4 people were “extremely confident” Rio would make a meaningful change in dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace, with 6% saying they were not at all confident.
“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,” Broderick said.
“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.
“In my interactions with the Rio Tinto leadership team, I have observed a strong desire for transformational change, as well as to make positive contributions to the societal shifts that we need to see. There is clear recognition, however, that new approaches are needed to solve these issues.”
The WA Government has finalised a long awaited plan to expand the capacity of the world’s largest iron ore export base Port Hedland in the Pilbara to 660Mt.
Port Hedland’s expanded capacity would represent a 41% increase on the 495Mtpa runrate contained in the last port development plan review in 2022.
Pilbara miners have exceeded that since then, exporting 546Mt of product in 2021, 523Mt of which was iron ore.
If market conditions allow, producers can open new mining fronts, which will provide significant growth potential for some of the world’s biggest iron ore exporters.
The move could enable the Australia’s iron ore industry to hit an export rate in excess of 1Btpa. Australia shipped 867Mt in FY21, with Federal forecasters tipping it will export a record 920Mt in 2022-23.
New developments facilitated by the plan include a shiploader for FMG to enable exports from the 22Mtpa Iron Bridge magnetite mine, the development of a second general cargo berth at Lumsden Point and a bulk liquids berth in South West Creek.
The plan also includes new allocations for the development of Stanley Point Berth 3, which would go to the recently announced JV between Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting and Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN) subject to approvals expected by mid-2022.
Ports Minister Rita Saffioti said the plan will support the long term growth of Port Hedland.
“The Port of Port Hedland Plan was last reviewed in 2012, when it set a total throughput of 495Mtpa,” she said.
“We have well and truly exceeded this, with the port achieving a total annual throughput of 546Mt last financial year – of which 523 million tonnes were iron ore exports by port proponents.
“This in part was made possible by investing in world-leading maritime technologies to maximise port efficiency and safety, which has seen a 6.9 per cent increase in potential shipping capacity at Port Hedland.
“We have made changes that will create jobs and provide certainty to industry.”
The plan will enable MinRes to develop a 20Mtpa iron ore operation centred around the Marillana iron ore deposit it shares with junior Brockman Mining (ASX:BCK) in a JV.
It comes on top of news yesterday the EPA was progressing an approval for port and road infrastructure that would help it ship up to 40Mtpa of iron ore over 30 years from its West Pilbara mines through the Port of Ashburton.
While most of the big iron ore miners have done little but replace outgoing tonnes in recent years, MinRes, which also owns a lithium and mining services business, has a proportionally larger growth profile.
If successful, the Chris Ellison led miner’s growth ambitions across its Pilbara and Yilgarn mines could make it a 90Mtpa producer this decade.
“Today’s announcement is a key milestone in MRL’s strategy to unlock stranded deposits in the Pilbara by developing pit-to-port solutions and expanding our capability to be a long-term, low-cost sustainable supplier of iron ore to international markets,” Ellison said after the release of the State Government’s port plan.
“We acknowledge the extensive consultation and review work completed by the Minister for Ports, Rita Saffioti, and the team at the Pilbara Ports Authority to ensure the Port Development Plan maximises exports and advances industry growth, which will lead to thousands of jobs for Western Australians for years to come.
““We look forward to working with the State Government, the Pilbara Ports Authority, our valued partner Hancock and Roy Hill to progress this project.”
Iron ore prices jumped out the gate in January, with expectations of stronger demand from a Chinese economy and stocking from mills ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday driving buyers.
On the flip side, floods in Brazil and labour shortages along with concerns about the start of Covid cases at WA iron ore mines have been a factor on the supply side.
Iron ore is up almost 20% for the year so far, with the Platts 62% benchmark fines price hitting US$147.90/t on Friday before a statement from China’s National Development and Reform Commission blaming speculation for driving prices higher, suggesting China will again try to put downward pressure on prices of the steel raw material.
That sent prices lower to US$141.50/t on Monday.
Premiums for high grade iron ore remain strong, driving interest in juniors looking to access that market.
With Chinese focus on air pollution and Brazilian high grade supply weak, the 65-62 spread has increased notably over the past month pic.twitter.com/LxLnpAlHja
— Harry (@HBGrimes) January 31, 2022
Akora Resources (ASX:AKO), which owns the Bekisopa iron ore project in Madagascar, has caught the eye, soaring 48% over the past week.
That’s good news for the $15 million capped junior, which had just $1m in the bank as of December 31 and will be in the market for fresh capital pretty soon.
AKO says its ‘Bekisopa’ project in Madagascar is shaping up “as one of the highest-grade iron ore projects in the world”.
The 60.1% iron at surface across the ‘Central Zone’ could be sold as cheaper-to-produce direct shipping ore (DSO). The resource can then be upgraded to 66.1% after magnetic separation at 2mm crush size, and to 70.2% iron at 75-micron size.
High grade Brazilian producer Tombador Iron (ASX:TI1) has been a winner as well.
It sold 103,900 wet metric tonnes of high-grade lump and fines during the December quarter with another 191,500 wmt of lump and fines ore was in stockpiles.
Tombador’s flagship mine of the same name in Brazil’s Bahia State contains a hematite DSO mineral resource of 8.62Mt at almost 64.5%, with a measured and indicated component of 7Mt at 65.11%.
The firm has a major development coming up in the March quarter with plans to release an ore reserve that will enable it to provide long-term production forecasts to investors.
Nick Jorss, who turned the $1 Isaac Plains coal mine purchase into the $250 million capped Stanmore Coal (ASX:SMR) back in the day, is on the cusp of delivering his new coal company Bowen Coal (ASX:BCB) into production.
$230m capped Bowen expects first production in the March quarter from the Bluff PCI mine it bought for shares off MACA in October last year.
That will be followed by the start of offtake contracts in the June quarter for Bluff, which will deliver production of 1-1.2Mtpa over four to six years.
Bluff’s coal is an Ultra-Low Volatile Pulverised Coal for Injection coal, which should attract a premium for its low ash, high energy and high coke replacement ratio.
ULVPCI was trading at record highs of over US$242/t in December.
Bowen has raised $15 million in debt to speed the mine to market amid record buying conditions for met coal producers.
It also expects to complete the Burton Lenton project acquisition from New Hope Corp (ASX:NHC) this quarter, with production and washing of an initial 1Mtpa of production expected to begin in the first half of the year.
Bowen’s strategy is to target a long-term production rate of 5Mtpa from multiple mines around the Burton Lenton complex by 2024.
Seaborne coking coal prices ended January around record highs, with Fastmarkets reporting premium hard coking coal FOB Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal selling at US$442.30/t on January 31.
Supplies of Australian coking and thermal coal on the seaborne market have been impacted by Covid cases and isolation requirements at workforces on the east coast along with wet weather.
Prices are up more than US$100/t over the past six weeks.
Hard coking coal was fetching US$390.21/t.
Australia is now outperforming the Chinese market on price despite the Middle Kingdom’s ongoing ban on our coal.