Chinese mining company faces another legal challenge in B.C. to foreign workers – by James Keller (Vancouver Sun – December 19, 2013)

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Canadain Press – A Chinese-owned mining firm behind a proposed underground coal project in northern British Columbia is facing yet another union legal challenge over its use of temporary foreign workers.

HD Mining has been fending off controversy since it was revealed last year that it planned to use up to 201 temporary foreign workers from China at its Murray River project, near Tumbler Ridge.

The plan prompted federal politicians to suggest the permits shouldn’t have been granted and led to a legal challenge from two unions, which ultimately ended in the company’s favour.

Now, the United Steelworkers union is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to revoke the company’s mining exploration permit, arguing the province’s chief inspector of mines was wrong to grant the permit without adequately addressing concerns the workers would not be fluent in English.

The United Steelworkers filed a petition with the court earlier this week, alleging documents obtained by the union suggest provincial officials were aware that allowing the mine to use workers who didn’t speak English would pose a potential safety risk, but granted the permit anyway.

“No part of that application addresses the ability of Mandarin-speaking workers, who have minimal facility of the English language, to work safely at the Murray River project,” says the document, filed on Dec. 16.

“Nor does the application address the projected intermingling of English speaking employees with employees who predominantly speak Mandarin.”

The court document, which contain unproven allegations, names the provincial Ministry of Energy and Mines; the chief inspector of mines, which falls under the ministry; and HD Mining.

The Ministry of Energy and Mines declined to comment and instead referred questions about the case to the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training. A spokesperson for the Jobs Ministry was not immediately available for comment.

HD Mining didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The union’s petition deals with temporary foreign worker applications by HD Mining and a related company, Canadian Dehua, which previously sought applications for 97 foreign workers at the site. Canadian Dehua has a 40 per cent ownership stake in HD Mining.

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