MAC: Mines and Communities

Chinese workers will carry coals for Canada

Published by MAC on 2012-10-16
Source: Vancouver Sun, The Tyee

A north American minerworkers' leader calls it "bullshit".

That's his view of a plan to employ Chinese personnel at Chinese-Canadian owned coal mines in British Columbia, to create "6,700 jobs and other economic benefits for British Columbians."

The government's argument is that only China can provide "long wall" technology in underground mines, and this is certainly untrue: it's been practiced across the border in the USA for many years.

Moreover, China's appalling record of mine deaths and injuries - though ostensibly reduced in recent years - still makes the Peoples Republic the most dangerous country in which to extract coal.

The executive of the Canadian company behind the plan says that the in-migrant workers will be taught "roughly 100 English words (sic) all related to safety" and "there will also be translators on site with technical expertise".

Enough said, surely?

[Comment by Nostromo Research, 14 October 2012]. 

Chinese workers fill B.C. mining jobs

Canadians 'just don't have the experience' to operate equipment to extract coal

By Peter O'Neil, Vancouver Sun

10 October 2012

The first of a group of 200 temporary Chinese workers approved by the federal government will start arriving in B.C. in coming weeks to work in the burgeoning northeast coal industry, a mine project spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday.

In total, anywhere from 1,600 to just under 2,000 Chinese nationals could find full-time work in four projects being proposed in coming years for the region, due to the shortage of underground mining skills in Canada, according to industry officials.

The four projects could create an estimated 480 to 800 full-time mining jobs for Canadians.

Canadians "just don't have the experience" operating the equipment needed to safely extract coal in underground mines, said John Cavanagh, chief executive of Vancouver-based Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc., a company founded by China-born Vancouver businessman Naishun Liu.

"Without the Chinese and the technology they're bringing ... these particular mines would not have been developed."

The necessity of foreign work ers wasn't mentioned in B.C. Premier Christy Clark's Nov. 9, 2011 news release from Beijing, in which she announced $1.4 billion in Chinese funding for two of the four coal projects.

"This investment clearly shows how confident China is in British Columbia's world-class mining resources and strong investment climate," Clark said.

"These two projects support our B.C. Jobs Plan and according to the companies will create over 6,700 jobs and other economic benefits for British Columbians." Cavanagh stressed that the four mines will create numerous spinoff jobs for British Columbians - three for every one full-time job generated - as well as significant personal and corporate tax revenues.

The 200 workers who got federal government approval under the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program will participate in a 100,000-tonne bulk sampling of a coal seam at the proposed Murray River underground coal mine located on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains about 10 kilometres southwest of Tumbler Ridge.

This is the most advanced of four underground mines being developed in the region by a number of Chinese companies working with Canadian Dehua. Each is expected to employ an estimated 600 workers.

Up to 480 of those employees at the Murray River project will be Chinese nationals brought in under the TFW program, said Jody Shimkus, vice-president of environmental and regulatory affairs at HD Mining International Ltd., Canadian Dehua's major partner in the project.

Canadian Dehua's Cavanagh said all four mines will have roughly the same number of overall workers, and roughly the same proportion of Chinese workers who are being brought in because they are familiar with equipment used in a form of underground coal extraction called longwall mining.

The earliest project to be fully operational is the Murray River mine, in 2015.

Stephen Hunt, western director for the United Steelworkers union, ridiculed Tuesday the suggestion Canadians couldn't be trained to work underground.

"Bullshit," he said of Cavanagh's assertions.

"That's just a cop-out, a way to bring in guest workers who are going to go into a camp, contribute virtually nothing to the economy, and then when they're done they'll be sent back to China," he said.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokeswoman Nancy Caron said the TFW program is employer-driven and usually requires that companies prove they are unable to find suitable Canadians to fill the job posts.

She and various industry officials said Canada's labour shortage in the mining sector is well-documented.

Caroline McAndrews, spokeswoman for Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Minister Pat Bell, said the B.C. government is working with Ottawa and the mining, construction and technology sectors to meet "urgent" labour and skills shortages.

"The province continues to invest in efforts to ensure that British Columbians have the skills and training required to take advantage of employment opportunities across B.C., as outlined in the recently released Skills and Training Plan for B.C.," she said in a statement.

Mining Association of B.C. president Karina Brino said there will be a widespread shortage of skilled labour over the next decade in B.C. even without expected growth in the mining sector.

There is only one underground mine in B.C., on Vancouver Island, she noted. "So definitely there's going to be a need for that specific skill set."

Cavanagh said the Chinese workers in northeastern B.C. will receive a "competitive" wage, but Steelworkers spokesman Hunt said the company is clearly hoping to keep labour costs down by using Canada's TFW program to make sure it has low-wage workers.

Hunt also warned of safety concerns, citing the numerous coal mining deaths that occur in China.

"We've been tracking coal mine disasters weekly and the numbers are staggering again this year. It's just a terrible place to be for a coal miner."

The China Mine Disaster Watch, a website kept by the U.S. Mine Rescue Association, says there were more than 50,000 coal mine deaths in the 2001-2011 period. But deaths have declined over that time, from a high of 6,995 in 2002 to 1,973 last year.

Cavanagh said there are old mines using old technology in China, and more modern ones using "state of the art" systems. He said the Canadian mines will use the latter technology.

"We have to operate under Canadian and British Columbia rules. The standards are not Chinese standards," he said.

The C.I.C. report said the federal government is working closely with the B.C. government to ensure workers have enough English language skills to help in the "transition" of knowledge from Chinese to Canadian workers.

Cavanagh said the training will involve teaching Chinese workers roughly 100 English words, all related to safety. There will also be translators on site with technical expertise, he added.

Chinese Temp Miners, Pawns of Racism

BC kills jobs by importing foreign coal diggers. Will it kill workers too?

By Bill Tieleman

The Tyee

16 October 2012

Hailed by premier as jobs coup for BC, coal mine now a lightning rod for union, enviro, First Nations anger.

Premier Clark touts mining as her jobs machine. But a lot of those hires may be foreign say eager firms and concerned unions.

"China has the world's deadliest coal mine industry, with 1,973 miners killed in accidents last year." -- Associated Press, Sept. 25, 2012

Premier Christy Clark has decided to kill British Columbia jobs by importing up to 2,000 coal miners from China -- the world's deadliest coal producer.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already started signing their temporary foreign workers visas, but will they also be death warrants for some of those miners?

It's the wrong decision in every imaginable way.

And it feels like yet another outbreak of racism against Chinese workers that has plagued British Columbia since the gold rush in the 1860s brought the first wave of labourers from China.

BC's history of exploiting foreign workers

Racism? Yes. Up to 2,000 Chinese temporary foreign workers at as many as four mines with heavy Chinese investment will be paid less than Caucasian or other workers of different ethnic origins in the mining industry.

That's one big reason why they're coming here -- because underground machinery mechanics will be paid $25 to $32 an hour according to one coal company's job ads -- rather than Canadian mining industry rates of up to more than double that.

The Chinese workers will live in isolated camps at the underground mines in northeast B.C., just as in previous centuries.

Like their predecessors in the 1870s who came to work in B.C. coal mines, they will not have a vote in this country.

And like 6,500 Chinese workers brought to Canada to construct the CPR railroad through the mountains from 1880 to 1885 where at least 600 of them died on the job, they will also be doing some of the most dangerous work in the world.

In one decade, 50,174 Chinese miners killed

The U.S. Mine Rescue Association says 50,174 coal miners have died in China just between 2001 and 2011, based on official numbers.

The association even keeps a ghoulish China Mine Disaster Watch page online that shows 411 dead and 124 missing so far in 2012 and eight dead and seven missing just in October.

Then there's the sad likelihood of a racially-motivated backlash against these Chinese workers for taking away jobs from Canadians, as the use of other temporary foreign workers as cheap labour has already done.

Safe for whom?

Clark actually had the nerve to announce one of these metallurgical coal mine projects last November as part of her vaunted "B.C. Jobs Plan" without saying the jobs were mostly for temporary foreign workers, not British Columbians.

"British Columbia is a safe place for Chinese investment," gushed a Clark government news release.

It's safe for Chinese investment but definitely not safe for Chinese workers.

And it's wrong in every way.

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