Canadian miner won’t replace Chinese workers until 2026

HD Mining, the Vancouver-based company that in early October sparked controversy with its plan to hire 2,000 Chinese miners for its proposed $300 million coal mine, won’t replace all of its foreign workers until 2026.

The information came to light in court last Friday, after an attempt by two unions to stop more temporary Chinese workers from coming to Canada was dismissed by a Federal judge, reported The Journal of Commerce.

Documents tendered in the case showed that HD Mining’s transition plan to replace temporary foreign workers with locals at its northern British Columbia coal project would take 14 years. They also revealed the company won't start hiring Canadian miners for more than four years.

“As a Canadian employer, HD Mining will endeavour over time to employ a 100 per cent Canadian workforce,” Peng Gui Yan, chairman of HD Mining International was quoted as saying.

However B.C. Federation of Labour president, Jim Sinclair, told CBC News that it will be 10 years before Canadians working underground are a majority at the mine, and that for another 15 years temporary foreign miners will keep working there.

Currently there are 15 foreign miners already working at the proposed coal mine near Tumbler Ridge, B.C. and HD Mining is expecting another 60 Chinese workers to come to Canada in a matter of days.

The unions claim HD Mining's plan to hire foreign workers and pay them “considerably lower wages” than what Canadian miners earn for comparable work will depress the labour market, causing irreparable harm.

Meanwhile, the United Steelworkers said it had dug up what it calls "close ties between the Chinese government and HD Mining." In a report  released Wednesday, the group  suggests the firm has ownership links to the government in China, where workers receive low wages in unsafe conditions.

The union report titled "Who Owns Huiyong Holdings and other Questions on Planned Chinese-Owned Coal Mines in B.C. " examines the ownership of Huiyong Holdings Group, which owns Huiyong Holdings (BC) Ltd., and holds 55% of HD Mining, reports Canadian Press.

Earlier this year HD Mining International Ltd. was granted a permit to bring Chinese miners as the company claimed there weren’t any Canadian workers trained in the specialized skills it needed.

However, HD Mining has reportedly been using dubious recruiting practices, as it posted online want ads for six coal mine managers that stipulated Mandarin as a requisite.

According to the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training's website, a company can be fined up to $10,000 if found guilty of breaching the province's Employment Standards Act.

Image: "Swallowed by the earth" photo exhibition. Detail by Jjackunrau. 

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