B.C. court says unions can see work permits for Chinese miners – by Petti Fong (Toronto Star – November 23, 2012)

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.

VANCOUVER—The federal government was ordered Thursday to turn over to two B.C. trade unions the permits it granted up to 300 Chinese miners to see whether those jobs could have been done by Canadian workers.

In a decision late Thursday in federal court, Judge Douglas Campbell awarded the two unions access to the Labour Market Opinions, the federal government term for the temporary work permits that allows foreign workers to come to Canada. Federal lawyers had argued against releasing the LMOs because of concerns that allowing the permits to be made public could open the floodgates to wide access. They said the permits could provide information that could violate privacy and raise competition issues for the companies that wanted to bring in workers.

HD Mining International Ltd., Canadian Dehua International Mines Group and Huiyong Holdings B.C. sided with the federal government in arguing the trade unions should not have access to those permits.

The permits will allow 200 to 300 miners from China to come to northern B.C. to work at the Murray River Coal Mine near Tumbler Ridge. Already about a dozen miners from China have arrived to do preliminary surveillance work and another 60 were scheduled to be in Canada by mid-December.

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As Coal Boosts Mozambique, the Rural Poor Are Left Behind – by Lydia Polgreen (New York Times – November 10, 2012)


CATEME, Mozambique — When Augusto Conselho Chachoka and his neighbors heard that the world’s biggest coal mine was to be built on their land, a tantalizing new future floated before them. Instead of scraping by as subsistence farmers, they would earn wages as miners, they thought. The mining company would build them sturdy new houses, it seemed. Finally, a slice of the wealth that has propelled Mozambique from its war-addled past to its newfound status as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies would be theirs.

Instead, they ended up being moved 25 miles away from the mine, living in crumbling, leaky houses, farming barren plots of land, far from any kind of jobs that the mine might create and farther than ever from Mozambique’s growth miracle.

“Development is coming, but the development is going to certain areas and certain people,” Mr. Chachoka said, taking a break from trying to coax enough food from his scraggly field to feed his six children.

Mozambique is one of the poorest nations in the world, broken by a brutal colonial legacy, a 16-year civil war and failed experiments with Marxist economic policy. But it is also one of the so-called African Lions: countries that are growing at well above 6 percent annually, even amid the global downturn.

Mozambique is poised for a long economic boom, driven by its vast deposits of coal and natural gas. Vale, the Brazilian mining company, is planning to invest $6 billion in its coal operation near here, and other coal giants like Rio Tinto will soon begin producing coal in the Tete region of northern Mozambique.

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Insolvent US coal miner agrees to stop mountaintop-removal mining – by Henry Lazenby (MiningWeekly.com – November 15, 2012)


TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Bankrupt US coal miner Patriot Coal on Thursday became the first miner to cease large-scale mountaintop-removal coal mining in central Appalachia in exchange for more time to comply with the Clean Water Act at several of its central Appalachian mines.

As the company is preparing for Chapter 11 litigation, it had reached an agreement with three environmental groups that had sued over water pollution from its West Virginia operations.

The agreement was presented for consideration to Judge Robert Chambers of the US District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, and had its roots in water pollution lawsuits filed by environmental protection groups the Sierra Club, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

Mountaintop-removal coal mining is an economical but devastating form of strip mining unique to West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Coal companies blast apart mountain ridge tops to expose multiple coal seams and then dump the waste in streams, creating so-called valley fills.

Patriot Coal said it had concluded that continuing and expanding its surface mining, particularly large-scale surface mining of the type common in central Appalachia, was not in its long-term interests.

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Imported Chinese workers inflame B.C. debate over skills training – by Jim Sutherland (Canadian Business Magazine – November 14, 2012)


On the day in late October when 13 temporary foreign workers arrived from China to begin work at a coal mine near Tumbler Ridge, B.C., the forecasted low was –19°C, with a snowfall warning. So much for a warm welcome. In fact, just two days later the federal government announced that it was re-examining the application that allowed HD Mining to bring in workers to the site in the first place.

But then, the reception afforded these particular arrivals was expected to be frosty. Unions were already angry about the growing number of workers entering the country through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, in part due to the Harper government’s easing of restrictions. Making it worse, here was China, long the great job thief, now exporting its impossibly cheap labour to Canadian shores.

Looming in the background was a historic misallocation of the labour market that has high-school graduates spending tens of thousands of dollars training for pursuits like web design and filmmaking, even as jobs go chronically unfilled in the country’s resource hinterland. The controversy, which started weeks before the workers’ arrival, happened to coincide with a much-mocked B.C. provincial government advertising campaign urging young people to reconsider their career paths, since “Hipster is not a real job.”

Then, there were some early missteps by HD Mining, a joint venture between Huiyong Holdings, a Chinese miner, and Canadian Dehua International Mines, founded by Naishun Liu, a China-born, Vancouver-based businessman.

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[Canada] We need foreign workers, they need fair treatment – by Tim Harper (Toronto Star – November 14, 2012)

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.

OTTAWA – The day Canadians decide en masse that they will relocate to northern Alberta or northern British Columbia to take available jobs, we can have a proper debate in this country over the need for the Temporary Foreign Worker program.

Until that fanciful day arrives, let’s accept that this program fills a huge void in the Canadian labour market in 2012.

There are two other more relevant questions to debate — why has this program been left open to such obvious abuse and why has its use accelerated so quickly under the Conservative government?

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley has been forced into a long overdue review of the program by organized labour in British Columbia after a subsidiary of the Chinese Dehua Mines advertised for workers fluent in Mandarin, apparently ignoring the requirement that efforts first be made to locate or train Canadian workers to fill the mines jobs.

“Our government believes that Canadians must always have first crack at job opportunities in Canada,’’ Finley said.

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Two unions seek federal court muscle to oust foreign workers from B.C. mine – by Dene Moore (Vancouver Sun – November 5, 2012)


The Canadian Press – VANCOUVER – Two labour unions want a federal court to overturn temporary work permits issued to Chinese workers at a coal mine in northern British Columbia, arguing that there are unemployed Canadians who could fill the jobs.

Permits have been granted under the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program to 200 Chinese workers to conduct exploration work at HD Mining International Ltd.’s Murray River mine near Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

The company has said it was not able to find workers in Canada with the specialized skills necessary. But the court action filed by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115 and the Construction and Specialized Workers Union Local 1611 maintains that is not the case.

“There is no evidence of a labour shortage nor is there an absence of suitable Canadian citizens or permanent residents for the jobs,” said the application.

It says HD Mining received 300 applications to work at the underground coal mine “despite the fact that HD Mining did not advertise widely and imposed unreasonable and unnecessary requirements on Canadian applicants.”

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Foreign workers shouldn’t get jobs Canadians can do: Kenney – by Kristy Kirkup (Toronto Sun – October 31, 2012)


OTTAWA — Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Wednesday he wants to ensure the temporary foreign work program operates “on the basis of Canadians first” in light of concerns raised about permits granted to Chinese miners at a B.C. coal mine.

“Companies cannot access foreign workers unless or until they have demonstrated to the government that they have advertised the job in Canada, offering it to any qualified Canadians,” Kenney told QMI Agency.

“We never want to give jobs away to foreign workers if qualified Canadians are available and applying for them.”

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada is now investigating why the work permits were granted to about 200 mine workers at HD Mining International Ltd., located west of Grand Prairie, Alta.

Employers who wish to hire temporary foreign workers must apply for a “labour market opinion” from Service Canada that assesses “the impact the foreign worker would have on Canada’s labour market.”

“Concerns have come to light, subsequent to these labour market opinions being approved for that particular mine, that Mandarin was listed as a work requirement,” Kenney said.

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Striking South African miners killed at Canadian coal mine: reports – by Geoffrey York (Globe and Mail – November 1, 2012)

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.

JOHANNESBURG — Two striking miners have been killed by security guards at a Toronto-based company’s coal mine in South Africa, local reports say.

The deaths, confirmed by the company Thursday, are the latest in a year of sporadic violence that has killed more than 60 people at mines across South Africa, including 34 who were killed by police at the Marikana platinum mine in August.

In the clash on Wednesday, about 100 striking workers tried to storm a locked mine-explosives armoury at a coal mine owned by Toronto-based Forbes & Manhattan Coal, but were dispersed by security guards, police said.

“It is further alleged that the security officers chased some of the workers into an informal settlement near the mine and shots were fired, injuring two men,” police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said in a statement.

He said the two men died from their injuries in hospital, and police are investigating two counts of murder. The company confirmed Thursday that two of its employees were killed in the clash.

The company said it has suspended operations at its Magdalena and Aviemore underground coal mines in South Africa, where strikes have been continuing since Oct. 17.

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[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.

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Canadian gov’t investigates foreign worker permits for Chinese miners in B.C. – by James Keller (Vancouver Sun – October 30, 2012)


The Canadian Press – VANCOUVER – Ottawa is investigating controversial foreign worker permits that will allow as many as 201 Chinese miners to work a proposed project in northern British Columbia, a government spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday.

HD Mining International Ltd. has obtained permits for miners from China to conduct exploration work at its proposed Murray River project near Tumbler Ridge, B.C., located about 200 kilometres west of Grande Prairie, Alta.

The company insists there aren’t any Canadian workers trained in the specialized skills it needs. Details of those permits became public earlier this month, prompting several unions to demand Canadians be hired instead. There have also been allegations that recruiters in China demanded fees for the jobs, which HD Mining has denied.

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada is now investigating whether the permit applications met all the necessary requirements, said Alyson Queen, a spokeswoman for Human Resources Minister Diane Finley.

“The government is committed to ensuring that Canadians always have first crack at the jobs available in Canada,” Queen said in an interview Tuesday.

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B.C. jobs plan abandons local benefits and exploits workers – by Jim Sinclair (The [Vancouver] Province – October 29, 2012)


Jim Sinclair is president of the B.C. Federation of Labour.

News that a company backed by Chinese state-owned steelmakers plans to bring more than 200 Chinese miners to work temporarily in its coal mines in northern B.C. has put a much-needed spotlight on Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, as has news that recruiters in China are charging $12,500 a head for access to these mining jobs in Canada.

That these are the first jobs directly associated with Christy Clark’s jobs plan ups the politics and has embarrassed the premier and her government. However, the issue is much bigger than the current electoral cycle.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program was, in theory, designed to ensure that short-term skills shortages would not stifle economic growth by holding up major projects. But the theory doesn’t match the reality. Whether in coal mining, fast food or construction, the TFW program has proven to be less about solving a labour shortage and much more about keeping wages low.

The program claims to require employers to search for local workers at the going pay rate, and come up empty before looking outside Canada.

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Teck makes cuts amid global tumult – by Pav Jordan and Carrie Tait (Globe and Mail – October 25, 2012)

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.

TORONTO, CALGARY – Canada’s largest diversified miner is cutting back in the face of a global economic slowdown.

Buffeted by volatile markets for the commodities it produces, Teck Resources Ltd. is deferring some $1.5-billion in capital spending over the next year or so, the latest in a string of Canadian resource companies to rewrite its plans in response to rising costs and an unpredictable outlook for the economy.

Among the casualties announced was Fort Hills, an oil sands joint venture in which Teck is a 20-per-cent partner along with Suncor Energy Inc. and Total SA. The project is not scheduled to begin producing oil until after 2017, but now some of the pre-production work will occur at a slower pace.

Canadian mining companies are increasingly joining the ranks of resource businesses that are being forced to rethink capital spending as the demand drops for key industrial commodities. The commodities cycle is sputtering along with the economies of the United States and Europe and as growth slows in China.

Suncor said in July that it was reevaluating tens of billions of dollars of planned spending, and pledged to apply “rigorous scrutiny” to the cost of three projects, including Fort Hills.

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B.C. government investigating claims about Chinese recruiters looking for miners – by Jeremy Nuttall (Vancouver Sun – October 23, 2012)


Canadian Press – VANCOUVER – The provincial government is investigating after the B.C. Federation of Labour complained an employment agency has been advertising for Canadian jobs, offering miners in China a chance to work here in exchange for exorbitant recruitment fees.

The investigation was launched because it is against the Employment Standards Act to charge a foreign worker a fee for information about employment or help them find a job in the province. Workers also cannot be forced to pay back any costs associated with recruitment to the company or agency.

“It is a serious allegation,” said Jobs Minister Pat Bell of a news release issued by Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour. “I hope he has substance to it. If he does, we will get to the bottom of it.”

But that’s not good enough for the B.C. Federation of Labour, which has been a vocal critic of the decision earlier this month to allow foreign, temporary workers into B.C. coal mines. “The only sensible thing to do is to suspend the permits and conduct a full investigation,” Sinclair said in the release.

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In eastern Ohio, coal fuels discontent with Obama – by Patrick Martin (Globe and Mail – October 18, 2012)

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.

CADIZ, OHIO — The people of this eastern Ohio region believe they are at war – with the Obama administration. Which is odd, considering that about 75 per cent of the men and women in the area routinely vote Democrat, and they supported Barack Obama in 2008 in large numbers.

The war is over coal and the administration’s policies to curtail its use in heating and power generation. Those are fighting words to this blue-collar district whose men have mined coal for more than a century and all of whose citizens have a stake in the mining and related industries.

The issue is so worrisome that many of those life-long Democrats are casting their ballots this election against Mr. Obama – one of the factors that is putting into doubt a repeat of the President’s decisive 2008 victory in this key swing state.

“It made me change my vote,” said Democrat Hooty McKee, a 50-something miner at the Hopedale Mine, 10 kilometres north of Cadiz. Not surprisingly, some of the 170 workers at the mine are distributing lawns signs for people to display: “Stop the War on Coal – FIRE OBAMA,” they all read.

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B.C.’s low-wage migrant coal mining jobs send us back to the future – by Thomas Walkom (Toronto Star – October 13, 2012)

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.

Early on in the 20th century, the silver and gold mines of Northern Ontario imported thousands of foreign workers. The mine owners said they were filling a labour shortage. But their real reason was to keep wages down.

So when native-born, anglophone miners went on strike in Cobalt or the Porcupine region, the owners shipped in French-Canadians. And when they went on strike, Finns were brought in and, after them, Ukrainians and Poles and Italians and Englishmen from Cornwall.

In every case, the point of the exercise was to bring in workers who were less likely to make common cause with those already there and who, therefore, would be willing to work for less.

It was an ugly time in our history and it gave rise to very ugly labour disputes. So it is depressing in the extreme to see employers, aided and abetted by the federal government, engage in the same discredited tactics.

The latest and most bizarre example comes from British Columbia where, as the Vancouver Sun has reported, four brand new coal mines in the province’s northeast are bringing in just under 2,000 temporary Chinese migrants to do most of the work.

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