Dehua shuts separate [B.C. coal] project over temporary worker concerns – by James Keller (Vancouver Sun – November 24, 2012)

THE CANADIAN PRESS – VANCOUVER – The legal and political troubles that have overshadowed a plan to bring 201 Chinese workers to a proposed coal mine in northern British Columbia have prompted one of the companies involved to shut down a separate coal project nearby.

Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc. announced Saturday it has decided to wind down work at its Wapiti River coal project, located southeast of Tumbler Ridge.

Dehua owns a minority stake in HD Mining, which has generated headlines in recent months over its plan to bring Chinese miners to another proposed mine at Murray River, also near Tumbler Ridge. Two unions have asked Federal Court to throw out HD Mining’s temporary foreign worker permits, and the case has prompted the federal government to announce a review of the entire temporary foreign worker program, including HD Mining’s permits.

Dehua issued a statement early Saturday morning announcing it had filed a notice to shut down its Wapiti River project. The shut-down order is effective Sunday at midnight, the statement said.

“The decision has been forced upon Dehua following a deluge of calls from investors in Dehua’s mining operations in Canada,” said the statement, distributed by company lawyer Darryl Larson.

“Investors have expressed reluctance to proceed with funding in the aftermath of the (court) challenge” of HD Mining’s foreign worker permits.

The Wapiti River project won’t restart unless Dehua can secure investors, the company said.

Dehua said it planned to comment on the closure of Wapiti River project on Monday.

The Wapiti River coal project is a proposal for an underground mine on a 15,000-hectare property located about 45 kilometres southeast of Tumbler Ridge. It had been in the exploration phase, with construction expected to be finished by 2014, according to reports posted to the B.C. government’s website.

B.C.’s minister of energy, mines and natural gas, Rich Coleman, issued a statement that attempted to downplay the closure, suggesting Dehua was only shutting down “temporarily,” though he didn’t elaborate on that point.

Coleman’s statement also said “many exploration projects shut down for the winter season,” but he didn’t say how that fact relates to the Wapiti River project. Dehua’s announcement made it clear the closure was prompted by problems with its investors, not the weather.

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