Resources giant BHP has tentatively backed the creation of a register of sexual offenders in Western Australia’s fly-in, fly-out mining sector.
The company has apologised unreservedly to victims of sexual assault and harassment on its mine sites, having sacked at least 48 perpetrators over the past two years.
Facing a WA parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday, BHP executive Brandon Craig said the company had initiated a trial of criminal background checks for new recruits in its iron ore operations.
BHP has also worked to develop an internal blacklist for known offenders.
But Mr Craig acknowledged it was difficult to prevent such workers from finding other jobs within the mining industry.
“We’re a large global organisation and we’ve had to work very hard to make sure that people who have been terminated for very poor behaviour don’t accidentally arrive in another one of our own operations,” he told the committee.
“Just to get that process to work effectively, it’s been quite challenging but we have reached the point where we can do that.
“The ability to extend that more broadly across industry would clearly be valuable. That may be in the form of a register.”
Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive Paul Everingham said there was some support within the industry for such a register but it was “not unanimous”.
He said the prevalence of sexual misconduct was a “failure” of the industry.
“A lot of the public talk around improving it is by getting greater diversity onto mine sites,” he said.
“But what young impressionable girl would want to work on a mine site thinking she’s going to be sexually harassed or assaulted?
“So until we get our ship in order, I think we’re going to struggle with diversity.”
BHP detailed its sacking of workers for sexual misconduct over the past two years in a submission to the inquiry.
A further 25 harassment allegations were substantiated over the same period, as were six allegations of sexual assault.
A handful of assault allegations were not resolved because the alleged perpetrator couldn’t be identified or had previously been sacked or the victim did not wish for BHP’s investigation to continue.
Fellow Pilbara mining giants Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group disclosed a similarly high prevalence of issues at its mine sites.
Both are expected to give evidence before the inquiry.