Mining firm dismisses union claims it rejected qualified Canadian workers
A worker is seen near the Murray River coal project in British Columbia.
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, February 4, 2013 7:07PM EST
VANCOUVER -- A company criticized for hiring temporary foreign workers for a northern B.C. coal mine is dismissing allegations that it rejected the resumes of several Canadian applicants who were qualified to do the job.
The statement issued by HD Mining on Monday is the latest development in a dispute with two unions over the hiring of about 200 temporary foreign workers for the Murray River coal project near Tumbler Ridge, B.C.
The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 115, and the Construction and Specialized Workers Union say Canadians should have been hired first, and filed documents in federal court on Friday outlining some of the qualifications found within the resumes of about 300 Canadian applicants.
One applicant had more than 30 years of extensive experience in all aspects of underground mining, while another had 20 years of experience, including three as an underground operations supervisor, according to the unions' submission.
"The information released so far is only the unions' position," said HD Mining in an email to The Canadian Press, noting it will be challenging the unions' submission and arguing it's not accurate.
The company said it and the federal government will respond to the unions' allegations in Federal Court by Feb. 15.
A judicial review of Ottawa's decision to issue the temporary foreign-worker permits has been tentatively set to be heard in April, while the case has also prompted a federal review of the temporary foreign workers program.
The company is also reiterating several previously-made arguments, specifically that no other mine in Canada is currently using the methods it plans to employ at Murray River.
HD Mining plans to use a technique called long-wall mining, in which coal is extracted along a wall in large blocks and then carried out on a conveyor belt.
"HD Mining will be using technology that will open up other opportunities and jobs for Canadians and is working on developing a training program with Northern Lights College," the company statement said.
The company says it needs the temporary foreign workers to complete a bulk-sample phase of the project, which will determine the mine's viability, but if they can't be used there will likely be "no work for Canadians" on the above-ground jobs.
The company announced recently it was sending 16 temporary workers who had already started work on the prospective project back to China because the firm was concerned about the ongoing litigation and associated costs.
HD Mining also said it had decided not to bring any more workers to Canada until it had "reliable certainty" on the project.
The company has consistently argued that it made significant recruiting efforts but still turned up empty-handed.
HD Mining is a partnership between Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc. and Huiyong Holding Group, which is based in China.