A male employee at Tundra Mine has been fired after allegedly going into women's dormitories and stealing personal items — including underwear.
Following an internal investigation from the mine's management in August, several women reported missing personal items, and "appropriate disciplinary action took place," said Sharon Nelson, a spokesperson for Public Services and Procurement Canada.
As plans are being developed for the former gold mine's clean-up, the federal government contracted out maintenance of the mine to a joint venture between Nahanni Construction and Delta Engineering. The two companies are overseeing employees at the site, which is about 240 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.
RCMP confirmed in an email that they "received a complaint of theft of underwear and are currently investigating." No charges have been laid at this time.
After the allegations, Nelson said the federal government followed up with the contractor "to ensure that it's providing a safe workplace."
CBC News has reached out to Nahanni Construction for comment.
Women 'targeted' and sensitivity training
Women are in the minority among employees at the Tundra Mine site.
This is the second incident in the last several months targeting women at mines in the N.W.T. that RCMP are investigating. Earlier in August, a camera was found planted in a women's washroom at the Ekati diamond mine.
Anne Belanger, a former exploration geologist who wrote the LinkedIn article The Real Reason Why I (a Woman) Quit the Mining Industry, says on several occasions, she felt "uncomfortable" as a woman in the field.
Belanger says the panty thief incident has a larger scope.
"It's not just stealing, which is bad enough, but it's a certain way of making women feel more uncomfortable, yet again, in having them being targeted," she said.
Belanger said once a male co-worker sat just two feet outside her shower while at camp, and no one else was around.
"It just became so tiring," said Belanger. "That weighed on me quite a bit, just having to feel like I always had to be 'on' to actually defend myself."
"I would be interested to hear if the company decided to do any sensitivity training [following the incident]," said Belanger, who believes that management at mining sites should not only provide more education for themselves and their employees, they should also create safe spaces for on-site discussions on sexual harassment.
"It is a work site. That's another difficult part of exploration and mining, because people are there for so long, people click out at the end of the day and don't see it as a work site anymore, but it still is."
"It takes a lot of guts to be able to come forward and say 'hey, this is what's happening,'" said Samantha Thomas, executive director of the Status for Women Council NWT.
"I know it can be very difficult for you to go to your employer and say 'hey, these are the issues … can you fix this.'"
Thomas says if women in the territory's mining industry would like to access direction, solutions or address concerns anonymously, they can contact the Status of Women Council NWT, who will act as an agent on their behalf.