The mining industry is taking further steps to address gender-based violence (GBV), with diversified miner Anglo American introducing wide-ranging measures to address GBV and harassment across its mines and mining communities in South Africa.
In addition, the Minerals Council South Africa started its 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign on November 25.
The council’s campaign seeks to remember the 21 083 South Africans, and especially the 197 mineworkers who have succumbed to Covid-19, and the women in the country who have died as a result of GBV.
Meanwhile, Anglo’s Living with Dignity programme was launched a year ago when the diversified miner committed to a series of integrated interventions in South Africa to reduce harassment and GBV at work, and prevent violence against women in children in homes, schools and mining communities.
The group has since completed a review and update of its policies and procedures relating to GBV and sexual harassment across its business units in South Africa. This aligns with the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 190, which Anglo says represents one of the most progressive approaches to addressing workplace violence and harassment in the mining industry.
The revised policy will be supported by an independent, victim-centric, GBV support function. This, says Anglo, is the first of its kind in the industry, with “expert” capability in investigation, counselling and advice.
Speaking ahead of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign, Anglo’s Hermien Botes says there is still a lot of work to do, but business units have made good progress.
“We have extended our efforts to combat GBV and harassment beyond the mine gate because we believe we can only sustain meaningful change inside the business by tackling the root causes in homes, schools and communities.”
She adds that mining has played a big part in shaping mining towns and host communities, and that Anglo has a responsibility to use its influence and resources to be part of a positive change in those communities.
As a result of the review, its Anglo American Platinum subsidiary has revised its sexual harassment investigation process to be more efficient and victim-centric, and revised its employee assistance programme to enhance its support to both survivors and perpetrators of GBV.
Further, the business is scaling up its mental first-aider training to ensure there is adequate support on every shift. A core part of this is a strictly enforced buddy system, in which no woman will ever work without another woman.
In terms of physical measures implemented at the company’s mines, Anglo is upgrading its female change houses, building fit-for-purpose lactation rooms at most mines and implementing a range of safety and security measures.
Further, Anglo American Coal South Africa now includes a module on GBV and harassment in its new employee and site inductions, and has ramped up bullying, harassment and victimisation training, improved female change houses, and is making progress on female appointments in senior roles.
In line with the company’s bullying, harassment and victimisation policy, yearly training is mandatory for all Anglo American employees.
Through its soon-to-be-launched global policy on domestic violence, awareness and practical survivor support will be key in providing a psychologically safe, physically healthy and productive work environment for all employees, contractors and suppliers.
Meanwhile, according to Botes, Anglo’s existing Living with Dignity community plans to combat GBV in communities were “dramatically” adjusted as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.
“It became clear in the early stages of the pandemic that economic distress, diverted public services, lockdown measures and many other factors were increasing incidents of domestic violence. We worked to fight the ‘shadow pandemic’ alongside the health and economic impacts of Covid-19.”
These interventions included a mass communications campaign telling people how and where to get help, and leveraging Anglo’s partnership with the University of Pretoria on community-oriented primary care to identify and refer cases of domestic violence.
They also included working with the National Shelter Movement (and De Beers with United Nations Women) to support 22 shelters in its mining areas with donations of food, personal protective equipment and financial aid for basics like data and transportation.