HD Mining criticizes adverse ruling over foreign mine workers

HD Mining International Ltd., which is developing a coal mine project in British Columbia, said it has filed an appeal of the Nov. 22 decision of a judge at a Canadian federal court to grant standing to two unions that are seeking to challenge the right of certain foreign workers to enter Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

HD Mining, which has a controversial plan to use foreign workers to staff its Murray River mining project, said it is very concerned and disappointed that on Nov. 8, after this litigation had commenced, Canadian Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Diane Finley made a public statement regarding HD Mining and the temporary foreign worker program, which she has to date declined to clarify. HD Mining said it is particularly concerned about the impact the Minister’s statement had on the ongoing court proceedings and the decision to grant the unions standing.

HD Mining applied for and received approval from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) to hire 201 workers under the temporary foreign worker program. In doing so, HD Mining said it believes it has met or exceeded all HRSDC requirements, and has been told that by officials from HRSDC. On that basis, HD Mining is in the process of hiring temporary foreign workers as well other local workers and contractors.

Before obtaining the temporary foreign worker authorizations, HD Mining said it undertook an extensive Canadian search. Ads were placed with the federal government’s national jobs bank and numerous newspapers and other publications. Contrary to some allegations that the advertisements required Mandarin speakers, none of the ads said Mandarin was required, the company said. Most made no mention of Mandarin at all.

The ads related to various positions, including mining engineers, industrial electricians and underground coal mine workers. As part of the application process, HD Mining developed and submitted a training and transition plan to ensure safe employment of workers and to eventually transition fully to Canadian workers. The training and transition plan was developed following consultations with provincial regulators responsible for mining health and safety matters. HD Mining has and will continue to comply with all provincial health and safety requirements.

HD Mining said it has committed to investing approximately C$15m in local housing and recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Northern Lights College to develop a curriculum to train Canadian workers in its planned longwall method of underground mining.

Project targeted for 6 million tonnes/year of output

The Murray River Property is located southwest of Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia. The project, targeting deep metallurgical coal deposits, has estimated reserves of more than 3.18 billion tonnes.

This project is unusual for British Columbia in that it would be an underground mine in a province dominated by surface mining for met coal, including several mines operated by Canada’s biggest met coal producer, Teck Resources (TSX: TCK.A and TCK.B, NYSE: TCK). HD Mining joins a growing list of companies – including U.S.-based Walter Energy (NYSE: WLT), Teck and Xstrata plc – looking to add new met coal production in British Columbia to meet a booming market for this coal around the Pacific Rim.

HD Mining’s Murray River project will be a longwall-equipped underground mine with an annual production of 6 million tonnes of met coal over 31 years, said a pre-application by the company posted on June 27 to the website of the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office. A pre-application begins a process of determining what will be covered by the office’s required environmental review of the project. The project will provide about 600 direct jobs and 700 indirect jobs, and has an estimated capital cost of C$300m.

HD Mining’s schedule for the proposed Murray River project has first coal being produced in June 2015. The project schedule includes submitting the Environmental Assessment (EA) application in April 2013. Environmental baseline studies were initiated in 2010. These studies will continue through to the end of March 2013. Engineering and scoping studies have been completed by consultant Norwest Corp. HD Mining received approvals from the BC government in February and March to mine a 100,000-tonne bulk sample to test the coal for use as a coking coal and to perform coal washability testing.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.