BHP Billiton is facing legal action over alleged racial abuse at one of its mine sites in Western Australia.
An Aboriginal woman has launched legal action against BHP Billiton after months of alleged racial abuse on a Western Australian mining site.
The world’s biggest mining company, BHP Billiton, is facing legal action over alleged racial abuse at one of its mine sites.
Kamilaroi woman Mandy Cant, 47, claims she was racially abused through offensive notes on three occasions at BHP’s Eastern Ridge mine site near Newman.
The last note was allegedly stuck to her laptop screen and read: “Go Home N****”.
Lawyers for Ms Cant have lodged a writ in the West Australian District Court claiming BHP owed her a duty of care to prevent injury.
A BHP Billiton spokesperson said it had not received the writ and could not comment on its contents.
“BHP Billiton does not tolerate any form of harassment or bullying in any of our workplaces,” the spokesperson said.
Ms Cant claims the racial abuse caused an injury in the form of a major depressive disorder.
The materials logistics officer claimed in her writ the abuse started when the word “n****” was written in the dust on the floor of a storeroom she used on July 21, 2016.
A few weeks later “n**** b****” was written in the red dust on the back of her forklift, she claims.
The abuse allegedly culminated with the offensive note on her laptop screen on August 21.
Ms Cant said the last note made her physically ill and the sustained racial attacks had left her too traumatised to work.
“I wanted out of there. I was frightened, I was intimidated and it rocked my world. It really rocked my world,” she said.
Ms Cant said the alleged abuse began in July after she asked for allegedly foul language and derogatory comments about Aboriginal people to stop when she was in the office.
She claimed she was told by a colleague that if she did not like the way people in the office spoke then “they had their own way of getting rid of people and dealing with it”.
The 20-year mining veteran alleged that shortly after the confrontation she was directly targeted with the offensive notes.
“I had no family or friends around me. I was on a new mine site working with people who have been there forever and a day,” she said.
Ms Cant said that a week after she left the mine site she met BHP and her recruitment company at BHP’s Perth office.
She said she believed the meeting was to discuss a way to return to work but claimed BHP told her she was no longer required.
Ms Cant claimed her recruitment company knew nothing about it and she still had flights booked to return to the mine site in the coming weeks.
“They tried to turn it all back around on me and say that it was my fault,” Ms Cant said.
“I don’t know how they get that it was my fault. I never asked for this to happen to me.
“Then they turned around and said that I had to be schooled for my language, which never happened, and when I asked for documentation to that, they couldn’t produce it.”
Ms Cant's lawyer, Phil Gleeson, from Maurice Blackburn, said he believes the alleged behaviour of Ms Cant's colleagues is unprecedented.
"This is the most appalling, targeted, intentional form of personal abuse I've ever seen in my time as a lawyer," he said.
In the writ, Ms Cant’s lawyers argued that BHP “is vicariously liable for acts and omissions of its employees which occur in the course of their employment with the defendant”.
And “as a result of the injuries sustained in the incident, the plaintiff has suffered and will continue to suffer from residual disabilities and symptoms”.
Ms Cant has also taken her case to the Equal Opportunity Commission.
“Mandy’s made the allegation that the environment at the workplace enabled or facilitated the BHP employees to target her,” Mr Gleeson said.
“And so by isolating her in the workplace based on the name calling, and the abuse, that means that she’s, in effect, been treated differently.”
SBS News has put Ms Cant's allegations to BHP for their response.
In addition to BHP declining to comment on the case for which it has not yet received a writ, BHP also said it would be inappropriate to comment on the matter given the ongoing Equal Opportunity Commission case.