Mining firm, unions at odds over admission of documents in foreign workers case – by Dene Moore (Globe and Mail – April 9, 2013)

Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Legal wrangling bogged down what was to be the first day of a Federal Court judicial review of temporary foreign worker permits issued to a Northern B.C. coal mine.

On Tuesday, lawyers for one of the companies involved in the project, Canadian Dehua International Mines Group, asked the court to disregard some of the affidavits submitted by the unions among the thousands of pages of documents filed in the case.

“These written submissions are full of extraordinarily inflammatory language, accusing HD Mining of being a liar, of misrepresenting, of blowing hot and cold and all sort of other spurious allegations which we would submit are not found in evidence,” said Laura Best, lawyer for Dehua, referring to the second company involved, HD Mining International.

Among the “behemoth” of information filed by the unions in their pursuit of a judicial review, are affidavits based on hearsay and false allegations, Ms. Best said. The unions fired back with written arguments labelling the application by the companies to dismiss the affidavits as an abuse of process.

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No tears for Thatcher in Britain’s coal country – by Eric Reguly (Globe and Mail – April 10, 2013)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

ROTHERHAM, ENGLAND — The mood is festive in the County pub in Rotherham, the South Yorkshire town that was once at the heart of the country’s vast steel and coal industries, a place where high unemployment and profound grudges mar the social landscape.

The McEwan’s lager and the John Smith bitter, at £1.70 a pint, are flowing and it is not even noon – the first patrons arrived three hours earlier. Rosy-faced men raise glass after glass in celebration of the death of Margaret Thatcher.

“I went ‘whoopee’ when I heard she died,” says Austin Davies, 64, a former coalface worker who joined the 1984-85 coal workers’ strike that ultimately wrecked his career and broke the country’s union power. “Bury her in a mine shaft.”

His friend, Barry McGowan, 68, who was an ambulance driver during the year-long strike, says the economic legacy of Lady Thatcher – a divisive topic anywhere in the country – still haunts the South Yorkshire towns that lost their mines and foundries. “There is still a lot of bitterness here,” he says. “The scabs – some of us still don’t speak to them after 30 years.”

Rotherman (population about 120,000) is an old steel town that has seen better days. A plethora of chain stores have brought some life back to the centre, but the outskirts are cluttered with the remains of dead steel and clothing plants.

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Margaret Thatcher’s death greeted with little sympathy by Orgreave veterans – by Helen Pidd and David Conn (The Guardian – April 8, 2013)

‘I’m not a hypocrite. I spoke ill of her when she was alive and I’ll speak ill of her now she’s dead’

“I’ll tell you what really annoyed us miners,” said Pete Mansell, sipping a pint of John Smith’s on Monday. “She said we were the enemy within. We weren’t. We were just looking after our lives, our families, our kids and our properties, everything that we ever had. We were fighting for that big style.”

Along with most of the other men drinking in the Black Bull pub in Aughton, Rotherham, the 55-year-old former pit worker had borne witness to the fiercest confrontation in the miners strike at the nearby Orgreave coking plant on 18 June 1984.

Almost 30 years have gone by since Margaret Thatcher characterised those who took part in the “battle of Orgreave” as thugs. But in a village that one drinker said had been “decimated by Thatcher”, the words still cut deep. It is perhaps no surprise that those gathered in the pub were having what they described as a party after hearing about her death.

“I’m not a hypocrite,” said Mansell, who is from the nearby pit village of Swallownest and worked underground for 22 years. “I spoke ill of her when she was alive and I’ll speak ill of her now she’s dead. She doesn’t mean two iotas to me.”

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Margaret Thatcher and the pit strike in Yorkshire – by Martin Coldrick (BBC News – April 8, 2013)

Yorkshire – In Yorkshire, the mere mention of Baroness Thatcher’s name is often likely to lead quickly to talk of the 1984-5 miners’ strike.

With the news of her death at the age of 87, emotions remain high in Yorkshire’s former pit communities about the miners’ strike and the role of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

At times, that strike – lasting from 5 March 1984 to 3 March 1985 – almost seemed to be a battle of wills between the Barnsley-born leader of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Arthur Scargill, and the Conservative prime minister.

In 1984, when there were 170 working collieries in Britain, employing more than 190,000 people, Mr Scargill obtained a “hit list” of mines the Thatcher government was planning to close.

The ensuing strike against job losses, for which the NUM controversially never held a national ballot among its members, pitted striking miners against Mrs Thatcher’s government, the police and other miners, and led to divisions in families which remain to this day.

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Despite its many doubters, the coal industry could soon roar back to life – by Bryan Borzykowski (Canadian Business Magazine – April 8,2013)

Following a brutal year.

The darkest day in the coal industry’s recent past arrived on July 9, 2012. About five minutes after the market closed, St. Louis–based Patriot Coal Corp. filed for bankruptcy and destabilized an already troubled sector. The company, one of the largest metallurgical coal producers in the U.S., had nearly as much in debt as it had assets and, thanks to plummeting prices, its balance sheet was simply under too much pressure.

Stock prices across the sector fell quickly. James River Coal Co., which many thought would follow Patriot into bankruptcy, saw its shares drop 44% that week. Some of the more stable businesses, such as Consol Energy and Cloud Peak Energy, fell by 10%.

At the time, no one was sure when or even if coal would recover. But after a lousy year that saw the commodity’s price get slashed nearly in half, many experts believe that the sector has finally hit its nadir. The industry will still be volatile this year, and may see another bankruptcy or two, but stock prices have nowhere to go but up. “You need to get in early,” says Matthew Peterson, a portfolio manager with Newgate Capital Management. Coal stocks move quickly, he says, so if you wait for good news, you’ll have already missed much of the upside.

While coal experiences more ups and downs than other commodities—the weather can have an effect on prices—the black rock has been in use for centuries. Even though it’s considered the dirtiest of fossil fuels and as a result is being burned less in many developed countries, there’s no way that it would suddenly stop being used.

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B.C. mine’s temporary foreign workers case in Federal Court – CBC News (April 9, 2013)

Unions challenge hiring of Chinese workers for B.C. coal mine

The fight by two labour unions against a company that hired more than 200 temporary workers from China for its coal mine in northeastern B.C. heads to Federal Court in Vancouver today.

The judicial review comes as the federal temporary foreign worker program has raised controversy following a CBC report this week that foreign workers were replacing some Royal Bank staff.

HD Mining International says it hired 201 workers from China for its coal mine in Tumbler Ridge because the 300 Canadians who applied for the jobs weren’t qualified. The two labour unions argue that HD Mining hired temporary foreign workers for jobs Canadians could have filled.

HD Mining International is a B.C.-based company. The majority owner is Huiyong Holdings Group, a private company from China, which operates several coal mines in that country. Vancouver-based Canadian Dehua International Mines Group also owns a stake in HD.

Brian Cochrane, of the International Union of Operating Engineers, hopes the case will result in changes to the temporary foreign worker program.

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Keystone follies: Canadian oil sands not a major source of climate change – by Susan McArthur and Ian Macgregor (National Post – April 9, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

U.S., Chinese coal plants produce far more carbon dioxide

Canada’s oil sands seem to attract lies, half truths and sheer nonsense from every corner, including from Canadians themselves. The current hullabaloo regarding the Keystone pipeline and Canadian oil sands is to climate change as a drop of water is to the ocean.

The scientific consensus is that CO2 is contributing to global warming which is bad for the planet and our children. If CO2 is the problem policy makers and pundits should focus the most offensive CO2 perpetrators. U.S. coal-fired power plants emit 2000 million tonnes of CO2 per year vs the oil sands which emit 40 million tonnes per year.

U.S. coal-fired electricity plants emit 50 times more CO2 per year than oil produced from the Canadian oil sands. If you add China into the global warning equation we are talking about 100 times more CO2 per year as a result of Chinese coal fired plants than Canadian oil sands.

Canada’s boreal forest is a national treasure. The boreal forest stretches 10,000 kilometres across Canada, is an important absorber of the world’s CO2 and is home to more than 85 species of mammals, 130 species of fish, 300 species of birds and a whopping 32,000 species of insects. According to TreeHugger, Canada’s boreal forest is still 91% intact vs only 5% in Scandinavia.

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Report questions ‘genuineness’ of Chinese mining firm in B.C. to hire Canadians – by Dene Moore (Canadian Press/CTV News – April 7, 2013)

VANCOUVER — An internal federal review of a decision to grant permits to a Chinese company to bring temporary foreign workers from China for its British Columbia coal mine found the company met or exceeded all requirements.

But the November report notes that the sequence of events in HD Mining’s application to bring 201 miners over from China for its Murray River coal mine leaves some questions as to the “genuineness” of the company in its search for Canadian workers.

The File Review Report obtained by The Canadian Press through Access to Information found that due diligence was performed on the applications.

“The employer, HD Mining International Ltd., has met all the program requirements for the (Temporary Foreign Worker Program),” said the Nov. 27 report prepared by Michele Morandini, acting director of the program, and approved by Heather Backhouse, executive director of the Citizen Services program delivery branch, B.C. and Yukon.

However, the review noted that of the 201 applications submitted by HD Mining, 84 of the workers had previously been applied for by its sister company, Canadian Dehua International. Fourteen of those workers were resubmitted by HD Mining for different positions.

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‘Elk River is being poisoned’ by coal mining, study finds – by Mark Hume (Globe and Mail – March 21, 2013)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

VANCOUVER – As it flows through the Rocky Mountains, near Fernie in southeastern British Columbia, the Elk River seems the picture of environmental health, with its crystal-clear waters supporting a world-famous sports fishery.

But a new study by U.S. researchers warns that all is not well below the surface, where invisible pollutants – including selenium, a metal-like element that can cause spinal deformities in young fish – have reached alarming levels.

“We’ve basically learned that the Elk River is being poisoned,” Sarah Cox, interim director of the Sierra Club of B.C., said Wednesday.

Ms. Cox said a report co-authored by Richard Hauer, of the University of Montana, shows that selenium, nitrate and phosphate levels in the Elk are far higher than expected. “This study … clearly shows selenium has been collecting to toxic levels,” she said. “This is a huge problem.… Definitely alarm bells are ringing.”

Environment Canada had an investigative team in the Elk Valley last summer collecting water and fish egg samples, but on Wednesday the federal government wasn’t able to immediately find a spokesperson to comment.

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Mandarin Need Cited as Feds OK’d 95 Chinese Miners for Gething coal project – by Jeremy J. Nuttall (The – March 19, 2013)

FOI docs show greenlighting of foreign temp staffing of second coal mining project in BC.

Months after controversy gripped a Chinese-backed company’s efforts to bring in temporary foreign workers to mine coal in British Columbia rather than hire Canadians, newly surfaced documents show the federal government granted a key dispensation to a different, similarly Chinese backed B.C. project to hire nearly a hundred workers on the basis that they spoke Mandarin.

The project that drew criticism and court challenges in the fall was HD Mining’s attempt to hire 201 foreign workers for its Murray River coal project near Tumbler Ridge, B.C. Newly revealed Services Canada files show that a partner company in HD Mining was itself given permission to bring in almost 100 foreign workers after listing Mandarin as the sole language requirement.

The documents, released through a Freedom of Information Act request, include Labour Market Opinions related to hundreds of jobs at Canadian Dehua International Mines’ Gething coal project near Hudson Hope, B.C. Currently the project is in the advanced exploration phase, according to the provincial ministry of mines. The LMOs, granted in the first half of 2012, are required to show the company made sufficient efforts to hire Canadians for the positions.

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Morien Resources Corp. interested in purchasing Donkin mine – by Sharon Montgomery-Dupe (Cape Breton Post – March 20, 2013)

DONKIN — There may be a light at the end of the Donkin mine. Xstrata Coal officials confirmed Wednesday the company is in discussions with Morien Resources Corp. about purchasing Xstrata’s 75 per cent interest in the mine. Morien Resources has a 25 per cent interest in the Donkin coal project.

“We have had some initial discussion, and with all commercial transactions there will be ongoing discussions between ourselves and Morien,” said Val Istomin, Xstrata business development manager.

However, Istomin said the Donkin mine remains up for sale in the meantime. “We haven’t stopped the sale process,” he said.

“At the end of the day all we want to do is exit this asset and hand it on to new people and they can continue on to the process. “If another company comes along and wants to buy the mine, we will be happy to talk to them about that.”

Xstrata Coal had recently issued a statement that it was unable to find a third-party buyer for its 75 per cent stake in the Donkin coal project. When the Cape Breton Post contacted Morien Resources Corp. for comment, president and CEO John Budreski issued a press release announcing the company’s intention to purchase Xstrata’s share.

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India not quite the shining knight for coal miners – by Clyde Russell (Reuters India – March 14, 2013)

(Clyde Russell is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own.)

(Reuters) – Rising Indian coal imports are the knight in shining armour for producers from the Americas through Africa to Asia — at least that’s the impression the industry is keen to give.

That India’s coal imports have no option but to rise and the only matter in dispute is by how much, was the consensus of producers and consumers at the Coaltrans India conference this week in this resort state an hour’s flight south of Mumbai.

But is the consensus based more in hope than reality? The thing that is always striking about India’s coal sector, for both domestic production and imports, is that forecasts are rarely correct.

India’s coal demand was around 730 million tonnes in the 2011/12 fiscal year, with about 100 million tonnes of that met through imports. The consensus of forecasts at the Coaltrans event is for demand to rise to about 1.1 billion tonnes by the end of the current five-year plan in 2016/17.

Some of this 370 million tonnes increase in annual demand is expected to be met by state-controlled Coal India, the world’s biggest miner of the fuel.

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Excerpt from “The History of Mining: The events, technology and people involved in the industry that forged the modern world” – by Michael Coulson

To order a copy of The History of Mining please click here:


For most of its history the most important economic activity of the state of Wyoming has been farming and ranching, although coal was first discovered in the early 1800s and the first coal mined in 1859. Anthracite was the main coal product for many years. The coal seams of Wyoming, including those of the Powder River Basin, were formed from huge peat bogs that over millions of years have been compressed and altered to become coal. The first commercial mines in the state established in 1868 were at Carbon near Medicine Bow and nearby Rock Springs.

These were owned by Wyoming Coal and Mining which was taken over in 1874 by Union Pacific Railroad which already controlled the company as well as transporting the coal. By the turn of the century the mines had closed but not before severe labour disputes had led, as seems always the way in the coal mining industry, to tragedy. This came in the form of the 1885 massacre of low-wage Chinese miners by white miners at Rock Springs following a wages dispute with Union Pacific.

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The oil sands are an amazing story Canada’s not telling – by Todd Babiak (Globe and Mail – March 1, 2013)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Todd Babiak is co-founder of Story Engine, a strategy company based in Edmonton and Vancouver. His next novel, Come Barbarians, will be published in September by HarperCollins Canada.

How Green Was My Valley, the novel by Welsh writer Richard Llewellyn, is about a young man born into a village of black air, of strikes, of deadly explosions. At the end, you’re keen to accompany the hero, Huw Morgan, out of the coal mines.

More than 50 years earlier, Émile Zola had come to similar conclusions in Germinal.

The novelists and filmmakers who adapted these two works for cinema focused on people – particularly the miners. They were sad, happy, passionate, defeated, pure, compromised, creative, dull, intelligent, stupid.

That is, alive.

Coal Miner’s Daughter, Matewan and other stories, in novels and on screen, do not elevate coal mining into the higher reaches of human endeavour. Of course it’s dirty. But the activity of putting on a helmet and walking every morning into a pit so the world can turn on its furnaces in winter and its lights at sundown is noble. It’s something that thousands of interesting human beings do to help raise their children.

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Dalton McGuinty: Canada’s greenest premier ever – by Stewart Elgie (Toronto Star – February 25, 2013)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Former Ontario premier moved to control urban sprawl and phased out coal-powered generation.

Stewart Elgie is professor of law and economics at the University of Ottawa (he discloses that the Ontario government has been one of many funders of the research institute he directs).

A handful of Canadian political leaders have left impressive environmental legacies. Mike Harcourt ended B.C.’s “war in the woods,” creating a world class parks network and tough new forestry rules. David Peterson pioneered the blue box recycling program, and made great strides in fighting acid rain and water pollution across Ontario (together with environment minister Jim Bradley).

Brian Mulroney, voted Canada’s greenest prime minister, passed three major environmental laws and played key roles in pushing global treaties on species loss, ozone depletion and climate change. But Dalton McGuinty is the greenest of them all, as a review of his environmental record reveals.

Let’s start with controlling urban sprawl — a huge problem in southern Ontario. McGuinty’s government passed the Places To Grow Act, requiring cities and towns to grow within their existing footprints (up, not out).

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