Pogo Mine settles in sex discrimination lawsuit

The Pogo mine and mill complex includes facilities for administrative offices, housing, meal service and emergency services. (Photo courtesy of the Pogo Mine)

A former underground miner at Pogo Mine in Interior Alaska has won a settlement in a lawsuit against Pogo’s owners after the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found she was discriminated against because she is a woman.

At the time, the gold mine was owned by Japan-based Sumitomo Metals. The current owners, Northern Star Resources, have agreed to pay Hanna Hurst $690,000 and conduct more robust anti-discrimination training and programs at the mine.

Hurst took her complaints about sexism at the mine to the EEOC, which investigated and filed suit in federal court.

“So I think they were making a statement that, ‘Hey Alaska! Hey companies out there in the woods! You still have to follow the law just like everybody else in the country,'” Hurst said.

Hurst said she endured harassment while working at Pogo for seven years. But she said the worst part was how higher-ups at the mine held her back, refusing to give her training to advance when her male counterparts with less experience got promotions.

“I mean, I knew I could do the work,” she said. “I had done the time. I had proven myself. I had worked very very hard, and in my mind, I couldn’t see a reason why they should keep holding me back.”

While Pogo’s current owners, Northern Star Resources, were not in charge when Hurst worked there, the company has agreed to pay the settlement.

“Handling this matter responsibly, respectfully and in a timely manner has been a top priority,” Northern Star Resources said in a written statement.