News Local

Little progress made on HD Mining training program

Jeremy Nuttall

By Jeremy Nuttall, 24 hours Vancouver

A plan to train Canadians at Northern Lights College has yet to materialize after HD Mining signed an agreement in 2012 to establish one. (REUTERS FILE PHOTO)

A plan to train Canadians at Northern Lights College has yet to materialize after HD Mining signed an agreement in 2012 to establish one. (REUTERS FILE PHOTO)

Eighteen months have passed since a Chinese-backed mining company using temporary foreign workers said it would work to train Canadians for its jobs — with little progress made establishing such a program.

HD Mining caused a stir in 2012 when it applied to bring 200 workers from China to work at its Murray River coal project near Tumbler Ridge, B.C. It was later found the company had brought 100 to another project near Hudson’s Hope.

The company had alleged miners in Canada weren’t familiar with the long-wall technique it intended to use as the reason for using the Chinese miners.

After public outrage, the company signed a three-year memorandum of understanding with Northern Lights College to train locals in the technique.

That was signed in late 2012 and the college said last week that despite meetings on occasion with the company, a program has yet to take shape.

“We’re still looking at potential training opportunities and nothing formal is in place yet,” said Brad Lyon of NLC. “Nothing’s changed. It is a three-year agreement.”

Meanwhile, Tumbler Ridge was given an update earlier this year by former BC Liberal mining minister, and current HD Mining advisor, Blair Lekstrom that 22 more Chinese miners were due to arrive.

“Work on the decline has progressed well to a depth of over 100 metres,” Lekstrom wrote. “As a result, another shift is being added which will require an additional 22 underground workers. They are scheduled to arrive in Canada on March 27.”

Against the backdrop of hundreds of layoffs at a separate mine near Tumbler Ridge, Mayor Darwin Wren said he was not aware of how much progress had been made in establishing the school.

“We want to ensure the local workers are given every opportunity to do work without question,” said Wren. “It’s important that we follow up and commitments need to be kept.”

He said invitations to HD Mining and the college have been sent to give a status update on the training.

In 2012, labour groups took the company to court over the importation of the Chinese workers and alleged the requirement to speak Mandarin eliminated many Canadian workers.

The trial featured the Canadian government asking the judge to rule it could not force HD Mining to hand over documents related to their obtaining permission to bring in the workers.

The judge disallowed evidence the labour groups said showed the company intended to use the more common room-and-pillar mining method because it wasn’t submitted in time.

The labour groups lost the case.




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