Mining firm rejects union claims Canadians were qualified for B.C. coal project

VANCOUVER – The company under fire for hiring temporary foreign workers for a northern B.C. coal mine is dismissing allegations that it ignored the resumes of several Canadian applicants who were qualified to do the job.

HD Mining issued a statement Monday saying documents filed in Federal Court last week by two unions challenging its hiring of about 200 temporary foreign workers for the Murray River coal project near Tumbler Ridge, B.C. are “not accurate.”

In their submissions, the unions pointed to the resumes of workers who didn’t get an interview despite having decades of experience.

“The information released so far is only the unions’ position,” said HD Mining in an email to The Canadian Press, noting the company will be challenging the unions’ submission.

Within hours of the company’s statement, a resident of Sudbury, Ont., who said he has worked in the mining industry since the 1970s, said in an interview he didn’t even receive a phone call after applying numerous times to HD Mining since 2011.

“We have lots of underground experience in Canada. Lots,” said Donald Donaldson.

“I find it very frustrating, that, you know, no Canadians were even given the opportunity, yet we had to resort to going and bringing in foreign country (workers) which we know don’t have a good safety record.”

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 worker program.

The company said it and the federal government will respond to the allegations made by the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 115, and the Construction and Specialized Workers Union in Federal Court by Feb. 15.

HD Mining also reiterated its argument 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 said 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.