Coal miner HD Mining International Ltd. announced Friday that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Northern Lights College following controversy surrounding its hiring of temporary foreign workers.
The company had promised to seek qualified Canadian workers for its Murray River mine near Tumbler Ridge. The MOU is to develop a curriculum to train Canadian workers in a long-wall method of underground mining.
HD Mining contends that it initially tried to hire Canadian workers but that it could not find any that were sufficiently skilled to work at the mine, so it hired Chinese workers on a temporary basis.
Unions believe more effort could have been put into finding Canadian workers.
The United Steelworkers (USW) announced November 21 that it had filed a complaint against HD Mining with B.C. mining minister Rich Coleman because HD Mining planned to teach temporary foreign workers only 100 words of English prior to commencing work.
The union pointed to sections of the Health Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in British Columbia, which requires that in order to understand and comply with the occupational health and safety rules and standards, all workers in mines must have appropriate facility in the English language.
USW spokesman Steve Hunt said, “First off, they said they did a market survey that showed they were paying wages comparable to the industry. They’re not. Then on the job posting they put that you have to speak Mandarin. That excludes almost every Canadian except Chinese Canadians.”