Monitoring the Miners: Rio Tinto, Drones and Surveillance

In of itself, technological development is benign.  But behind every use is a human agent, and behind that agent is a motive, an inspiration, an agenda. Monitoring one’s employees has become the great mainstay of what companies claim is a productive exercise. The watched employee will have incentives to behave, to prosper, and to fulfil the ethos of the company.

Management at the mining giant Rio Tinto have ambitions to take the technology of monitoring employees to another level – quite literally.  Proud to have been at the forefront of various technical innovations in the employment field, the recently proposed surveillance program by the company’s management caused more than just a ruffling.

Some of this was put down to the company’s fly-in, fly-out contractor (FIFO), which seemed enthusiastic about the idea of monitoring work personnel on the work camp sites.  Last Thursday, Rio Tinto, through its human resources arm, distributed an email claiming the suggestion inaccurate. “We do not, nor will we in future, use drones to monitor employees on any of our sites or premises.”

Hair splitting duly ensued. “This concept,” claimed vice president for human resources Nicky Firth, “has never been proposed and there is no provision in the contract with Sodexo for this form of activity.”

Sodexo, the company allied to Rio Tinto’s operations similarly poured water on the idea, though it was hardly of the cold sort, claiming that “the comments in…

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