HD Mining supporters have launched a website to support the company, which has come under fire for its plans to develop a coal mine with the help of Chinese miners brought to Canada under the temporary foreign worker program.
A website entitled Friends of HD Mining lists member companies in businesses including trucking, construction and restaurant services and says the initiative is funded by donations from those members.
It includes a bulletin headlined “HD Mining is under attack.”
“As fellow service providers to HD Mining, we feel the need to stand up for a company that has been supportive of all of us,” it says. “Certain organizations in B.C. have targeted HD Mining in an effort to succeed in their own selfish agenda. This website has been developed to provide a voice for the many Canadian-owned companies providing services to HD Mining and to set the record straight about our friend and client, HD Mining Ltd.”
The recent furor over foreign workers has overshadowed the positive impact of HD Mining’s project, says one of the business people involved in the campaign.
“The other side of the story is that there are hundreds of Canadians employed in the various service providers and suppliers. … These Canadian jobs are potentially in jeopardy if this company isn’t here with its investment,” James Rea, chief executive officer of Triland International, and a sponsor of the campaign, said on Thursday in a telephone interview.
Triland subsidiary Northern Lands Development Corp. recently built a $15.5-million, 92-unit housing project in Tumbler Ridge that it sold to HD Mining, Mr. Rea said.
Vancouver-based HD Mining has been in the spotlight in recent months for its plans to bring 200 Chinese employees to Tumbler Ridge to work on its Murray River coal project, which would provide metallurgical, or steel-making, coal for export markets.
The company, which is privately held and backed in part by Chinese interests, has said it could not find qualified Canadian workers for its project, which is planned as an underground, long-wall mining operation. Most coal mines in Canada are surface-mining operations that use a different technique known as “room-and-pillar” mining.
Labour groups say HD has not done enough to hire and train local workers.
Local 1611 of the Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union and Local 115 of the International Union of Operating Engineers applied in November for a judicial review of the process through which the foreign workers were approved to come to Canada. The unions maintain the company advertised jobs at less-than-market wages, a claim the company disputes.
HD Mining and the federal government challenged the unions’ right to pursue the case, but on Nov. 22, Federal Court of Canada Judge Douglas Campbell granted the unions public interest standing. The case is still before the court.
In November, federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said she had concerns about the process through which the mining workers were approved to come to B.C., and that the federal government would review the temporary foreign worker program.
Seventeen workers are already in Tumbler Ridge, and another 60 are scheduled to arrive this month.
In an e-mail, HD Mining spokeswoman Jody Shimkus said the company is aware of the campaign and appreciates the support of the group, but has provided no funds or resources “other than contracting their services and purchasing their goods.”