Imported Chinese miners reflect government’s lack of vision 0
“We are replacing people with 25-to-45-years experience with people that have zero days of experience.” — Jimmy Brock of U.S. coal mining firm Consol Energy Inc.
If you don’t think Chinese coal miners should be coming to B.C. as temporary foreign workers in new mines get ready to be really angry. That’s because the federal Conservative government will this week ratify a foreign-investment agreement, ensuring even more Chinese takeovers of Canada’s natural resources — and jobs.
And if you doubt China-owned coal companies had no choice but to import workers to B.C. because no trained, experienced miners are available, prepare to get downright furious.
The reason is simple — neither the coal companies nor the federal or B.C. governments wanted to train Canadian workers — even though it’s nowhere near as difficult as they claim.
“We require temporary-foreign workers because we are introducing a highly mechanized form of long-wall mining to the province. There’s currently no active long-wall mining going on in Canada or B.C.," said Jody Shimkus, vice-president of HD Mining International, one of the companies involved in developing up to four coal mines.
And Shimkus would know. Less than one year ago she was assistant-deputy minister for the province’s mines ministry itself.
But is long-wall mining that rare and complicated? No. Is China the only source of long-wall miners? No. Just the cheapest.
In fact, half of all U.S. coal mines use long-wall methods.
Consul Energy Inc., the largest U.S. underground coal producer, constantly trains miners in long-wall techniques at a new $12 million centre in Pennsylvania.
West Virginia and Pennsylvania also have the Mining Technology and Training Center that provides new and inexperienced miner training courses with 240 hours of classroom and hands-on training.
In addition, the Kentucky Coal Academy has trained 55,000 new and incumbent miners since 2005.
Pennsylvania miners make $78,061 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, far more than HD Mining jobs advertised at $25 to $32 an hour, or $50,000 to $64,000 a year.
It has been well known since 2007 that Chinese coal companies were planning on developing mines in northeast B.C. and a 2008 provincial task force recommended creating a new underground miner training program.
But nothing was done.
And now B.C. is reduced to calling for Chinese take out to deliver miners.