[B.C. coal] Miners Could Have Been Trained Here Easily – by Bill Tieleman (The Tyee.ca – October 29, 2012)


Longwall coal mining is hardly the rare, elite skill politicians want us to believe. If you don’t think Chinese miners should be coming to British Columbia as temporary foreign workers in new coal mines, get ready to be really angry.

That’s because the federal Conservative government will ratify a foreign investment agreement this week, ensuring even more Chinese takeovers of Canada’s natural resources — and jobs.

And if you doubt that China-owned coal companies had no choice but to import their own 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 hard as they claim.

“We require temporary foreign workers because we are introducing a highly mechanized form of longwall mining to the province. There’s currently no active long-wall mining going on in Canada or B.C.,” says 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 B.C.’s mines ministry itself.

While B.C. public service guidelines require senior government officials to wait one year before accepting employment with companies they had “substantial involvement” with, Shimkus said in a Friday interview that she did not deal with HD Mining in her ADM position.

Shimkus also said she was “unaware” of the government guidelines.

But is longwall mining that rare and complicated? No. Is China the only source of longwall miners? No. Just the cheapest.

US training legions of longwall miners

In fact, half of all U.S. coal mines use longwall methods, extracting 166 million tons in 2009 that way.

The largest U.S. underground coal producer — Consul Energy — constantly trains miners in longwall techniques at a new $12 million centre in southwest Pennsylvania because that’s how it extracts 88 per cent of its coal.

West Virginia and Pennsylvania also have a Mining Technology and Training Center that provides new and inexperienced miner training courses with 240 hours of classroom and hands-on training.

And since just 2005, the Kentucky Coal Academy has trained 55,000 new and incumbent miners.

The reason for training so many miners is obvious. There is a great need and the job pays well.

For the rest of this article, please go to The Tyee.ca website: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2012/10/30/BC-Chinese-Miners/