Plan to import miners stirred a wave of anger – by James Keller (Canadian Press/Vancouver Sun – June 1, 2013)

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One resident of an unnamed B.C. community claimed to personally know 40 unemployed miners who would be happy to work at a proposed coal mine in the province’s northeast, which was instead slated to temporarily employ Chinese workers. Another lamented the mine’s hiring plan as just the latest example of Canadian resources leaving this country.

And yet another bluntly asked: “Are you trying to lose the next election?” As debate swirled about Chinese owned HD Mining’s plan to use temporary foreign workers at its proposed underground coal mine – prompting several government investigations and a lawsuit by a pair of unions – the province was flooded with angry letters from the public.

Four months of those letters, obtained through freedom of information laws, reveal deep anger about the province’s public support for the project and little sympathy for politicians and company officials who insisted there was not a single Canadian qualified to work at the mine.

The dozens of emails and typewritten letters on the subject were sent to the government between October and January. All oppose the importing of Chinese workers, with many writers telling the government they simply do not believe the assertion there was no way to train and hire workers from the province.

“We as Canadian citizens are appalled that the Canadian and B.C. governments would allow foreign workers into Canada to steal away jobs that Canadians are perfectly willing, qualified and able to perform,” said one letter, dated Oct. 22, 2012.

“In casual conversations with friends and neighbours about this issue, I find them pretty fired up … that you would so casually give our jobs away.”

HD Mining’s plan to use temporary foreign workers from China at its Murray River coal mine, near Tumbler Ridge, was revealed in media reports in mid-October. Those reports also included allegations the company required workers speak Mandarin, which HD Mining has repeatedly denied.

The company was quick to defend its hiring plan, and the province’s jobs minister, Pat Bell, became one of the project’s most vocal boosters.

The mine would use a specialized form of mining not yet used in Canada, they said, and Canadians would be trained and hired eventually. Documents presented in a subsequent court case revealed the company’s plans wouldn’t see Canadian miners hired for at least four years, and all of the temporary foreign workers wouldn’t be gone for more than a decade.

Two unions asked the Federal Court to throw out the permits, but the court rejected the unions’ case earlier this month.

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