A contractor whose firm was building housing for mine workers in Tumbler Ridge says they are postponing the second phase of the job as a result of a legal dispute hanging over its client, Vancouver-based HD Mining.
"Everything is being postponed," Graham Johnson, vice-president of Triland International, said on Tuesday in a telephone interview from Edmonton. "Until [HD Mining] has this judicial review behind them, they don't have total confidence that this project is going forward.
"They have invested $15.5-million in our housing project in Tumbler Ridge – but it's a phased project, to be phased with the arrival of their work force."
Triland decided to postpone the project after hearing from HD Mining on Monday, Mr. Johnson said.
HD Mining, a B.C. company backed by Chinese interests, is embroiled in a legal dispute over its plans to hire up to 200 temporary foreign workers for its Murray River coal project near Tumbler Ridge.
Two labour groups have challenged the workers' permits and the federal process that allowed HD Mining to hire the workers under Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program. That court case is ongoing.
On Monday, HD Mining said 16 workers who had come from China in the fall would be returning to China, citing the "cost and disruption" of the court case.
In a statement, HD Mining said it would continue with its worker housing development and the environmental assessment process while the court case unfolds.
HD Mining also said it would "vigorously contest" the dispute in court.
Triland had planned to begin the second phase of the worker housing project in April but is now uncertain when that work will begin, Mr. Johnson said.
The company can't afford to have employees or equipment sit idle so is already moving equipment out of the community, he said.
Triland, a real estate and construction company with divisions in Canada and the United States, has already built 32 duplex units in Tumbler Ridge and planned to build more as well as a $7-million dining facility for the project. Triland currently has about 20 employees in Tumbler Ridge but anticipated having as many as 200 for the next phase of construction, which included surface construction work for the mine.
Triland was a founding member of a group of businesses and contractors that launched a group and website, Friends of HD Mining, to defend the company.