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Jammed in a cage with no escape from abuse: that’s life for ...

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Jammed in a cage with no escape from abuse: that’s life for female miners

An explosive report from Rio Tinto Group has highlighted the scale and severity of this issue and racism

Felix Njini, Thomas Biesheuvel and James Thornhill

Noxolo Bobotyane, a veteran of more than a decade in SA’s gold fields, has seen first hand how women are sexually harassed as they start their shifts each day. Jammed into a metal cage with other mineworkers as they descend deep below the Earth’s surface, there is literally no way out.

“The distance we are standing when we are inside the cage, we are so close to each other,” said Bobotyane, who is a union steward. “A man will touch you when you are just standing in front of him and there is no way you can go anywhere; you are just standing in front of him. So you just wait for the cage to go down.”

From SA’s ultra-deep shafts to the vast iron ore pits of Western Australia, the message from the world’s mines is overwhelming. Women are not safe. Local workers across the board are confronted with blatant and normalised racism, often from their expatriate managers. And a pervasively macho culture in the remote camp sites means bullying is a normal part of the job...

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