Document reveals experience of Canadian mine applicants
Chinese-owned Tumbler Ridge operation received about 300 resumés
By Michael Smyth, The Province February 3, 2013
The Chinese company that wants to set up an underground coal mine near Tumbler Ridge said it tried - and failed - to find qualified Canadians to work in the mine.
But after the company was forced in court to produce about 300 resumés submitted by "unqualified" Canadian job applicants, critics are scoffing at the claim.
"There were obviously qualified Canadians who applied for these jobs, and they were simply rejected," Brian Cochrane of the Union of Operating Engineers told me Saturday.
"Qualified Canadians are being denied jobs developing Canada's own resources," Cochrane said.
"It's outrageous." HD Mining International received approval from the federal government to bring hundreds of Chinese coal miners to B.C., after Ottawa accepted the company's argument that no Canadians could do the work.
The Operating Engineers and another union, the Construction and Specialized Workers, challenged the company and the government in court.
Last month, the company turned over to the unions hundreds of resumés from rejected Canadian job applicants.
Now, in a document filed last week in federal court, the public is getting its first glimpse at the qualifications of Canadians who applied for jobs with the Chinese company.
"There were trained and certified underground miners who applied for these jobs," said Cochrane.
"Miners with over 30 years' experience. Former managers and supervisors with major mining operations. Heavy equipment operators. People with tonnes of experience and clear qualifications. Yet all of them were rejected or didn't even get interviews.
"It proves we were right all along."
HD Mining opposed the release of the resumés.
"We have a real concern for the privacy rights of the people who applied for jobs," the company's lawyer, Alex Stojicevic, said during the court battle last month.
The resumés are now sealed, but the court document provides a general description of the qualifications of the applicants without naming or identifying them.
One applicant - called "Applicant 4" in the document - "had 20 years of underground mining experience, including three years as an underground operations supervisor."
Applicant 7 "had six years experience as an underground miner, at least three of which were in an underground coal mine."
Applicant 9 "had 30-plus years of wide-ranging and extensive experience in all aspects of underground mining."
Applicant 10 "had completed an Underground Miner Hard Rock Common Core certificate and had been working as a skilled mine laborer."
Applicant 11 "had three years underground mining experience including experience installing ventilation."
Applicant 12 "had three years of under-ground coal mine experience, including operating various equipment as a helper on an underground utilities crew."
Applicant 13 "had three years of underground mining, construction, diamond drilling and production."
You can read the entire 10-page court document for yourself at theprovince.com.
Jody Shimkus, the vice-president of HD Mining, said the Canadian job applicants were rejected because they didn't have experience in "long-wall mining," in which coal is extracted in long slices deep underground.
"Since there are no other mines in Canada that use this new technology, it shouldn't be hard to understand why there are no experienced Canadian underground long-wall coalmine workers available," Shimkus said.
But Cochrane said the proposed Tumbler Ridge mine was not scheduled to go into full production for two years, plenty of time for the company to upgrade the skills of Canadians with previous underground mining experience.
"There were applicants with underground tunnelling experience, experience with boring machines and running underground conveyors.
"They would have needed truck drivers on the surface. There were Canadian applicants with experience as mine managers and supervisors.
"Now we know why the company didn't want these resumés released. It's absolutely absurd for them to say Canadians could not have filled these positions."
HD Mining announced last week it was sending home its first wave of 16 Chinese coal miners and delaying the arrival of other foreign workers, blaming the unions for the "cost and disruption" of their court action.
"We have been treated very unfairly by the unions," Shimkus said.
But Cochrane said it's not just about protecting union jobs.
"This is about making sure Canadians have first crack at these jobs," he said.
"I've had many people tell me, 'I'm not a trade unionist and I'm not a miner, but thank you for protecting Canadians.'"
This battle is far from over.
I have to wonder how many other Chinese "joint ventures" are in reality entirely staffed by Chinese around the world...