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“China has some very unsophisticated operations and some very highly sophisticated operations,” says Jody Shimkus, VP of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs for HD Mining. “The safety records at the highly sophisticated mines are excellent. Our company owns and operates nine mines in China and they use the most sophisticated safety and technology available.”
(Murray River will use Chinese technology, but here’s a demonstration of longwall mining using American equipment.)
She says Murray River will pay Canadian wages and follow Canadian and provincial standards. “And mining is probably one of the most regulated industrial sectors.”
Our experience tells us there are lots of people who are interested in the security, stability, good pay and benefits that jobs in the mining industry can offer. We should be training these people to take on those positions.—United Steelworkers Communications Officer Brad West
HD Mining has a long-term goal to teach longwall mining to Canadians, she says. But the company expects to rely on Chinese miners for the project’s first 10 years of operation. “I’m not aware of any longwall mining in Canada, definitely not in B.C. The mining sector as a whole has a shortage of skilled labour right now. It’s going to take some time to work with the local communities, the training institutions and the provincial government to get a program in place that will allow us to transfer the skill set.”
But will it really take all that time? And why hasn’t training begun already?
“There’s only so much we can do,” Shimkus replies. “We’ve been focused on trying to get the permits to approve a bulk sample and get ready for the environmental assessment process [now underway]…. HD Mining was just formed in June of last year. I wouldn’t say we had a ton of time to work on this.”
The plan to train Canadians, gradual as it is, wasn’t even a government requirement, she says. “We’ve been proactive in developing a strategy to transfer that skill set.”
But Canadian Dehua has been around a lot longer than HD Mining, which is developing only one of Canadian Dehua’s four B.C. coal projects. As far back as May 29, 2007, the Vancouver Sun reported that Canadian Dehua’s China-born president, Naishun Liu, wanted to bring 400 Chinese underground workers to B.C. The B.C. government knew about it. The newspaper found out from a project description filed with B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office.
Strong reassurances from HD Mining notwithstanding, the question remains whether hundreds of people from the same foreign culture, living and working together in a remote part of B.C., could overwhelm efforts to impose Canadian standards. Questions also remain about the other three Canadian Dehua projects which HD Mining is not involved in.
The extent to which Canadian Dehua has acculturated to Canada might also be questioned. The Vancouver-headquartered company’s Web site is riddled with garbled English, like the following account of its Murray River Project:
Proved and inferred reserves the coal seam area is 17 square kilometers. And then, cooperate with to start the second stage of exploration. Planed 21 drilling holes and the total depth deigned is 17,890 meters. There are 12 drilling hole has been achieve the task, 6 holes is still drilling, and 3 hole is in the planning. The total footage is 14145.45 meters.
An attempt to interview Canadian Dehua CEO John Cavanagh was blocked by a receptionist who informed ResourceClips that no one at the company talks to media. She then abruptly hung up.
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