Chinese workers fill B.C. mining jobs – by Peter O’Neil (Vancouver Sun – October 10, 2012)

Canadians ‘just don’t have the experience’ to operate equipment to extract coal

The first of a group of 200 temporary Chinese workers approved by the federal government will start arriving in B.C. in coming weeks to work in the burgeoning northeast coal industry, a mine project spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday.

In total, anywhere from 1,600 to just under 2,000 Chinese nationals could find full-time work in four projects being proposed in coming years for the region, due to the shortage of underground mining skills in Canada, according to industry officials.

The four projects could create an estimated 480 to 800 full-time mining jobs for Canadians. Canadians “just don’t have the experience” operating the equipment needed to safely extract coal in underground mines, said John Cavanagh, chief executive of Vancouver-based Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc., a company founded by China-born Vancouver businessman Naishun Liu.

“Without the Chinese and the technology they’re bringing … these particular mines would not have been developed.” The necessity of foreign work ers wasn’t mentioned in B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s Nov. 9, 2011 news release from Beijing, in which she announced $1.4 billion in Chinese funding for two of the four coal projects.

“This investment clearly shows how confident China is in British Columbia’s world-class mining resources and strong investment climate,” Clark said.

“These two projects support our B.C. Jobs Plan and according to the companies will create over 6,700 jobs and other economic benefits for British Columbians.” Cavanagh stressed that the four mines will create numerous spinoff jobs for British Columbians – three for every one full-time job generated – as well as significant personal and corporate tax revenues.

The 200 workers who got federal government approval under the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program will participate in a 100,000-tonne bulk sampling of a coal seam at the proposed Murray River underground coal mine located on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains about 10 kilometres southwest of Tumbler Ridge.

This is the most advanced of four underground mines being developed in the region by a number of Chinese companies working with Canadian Dehua. Each is expected to employ an estimated 600 workers.

Up to 480 of those employees at the Murray River project will be Chinese nationals brought in under the TFW program, said Jody Shimkus, vice-president of environmental and regulatory affairs at HD Mining International Ltd., Canadian Dehua’s major partner in the project.

Canadian Dehua’s Cavanagh said all four mines will have roughly the same number of overall workers, and roughly the same proportion of Chinese workers who are being brought in because they are familiar with equipment used in a form of underground coal extraction called longwall mining.

The earliest project to be fully operational is the Murray River mine, in 2015.

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