Union report says workers earn low wages and work in unsafe conditions.
VICTORIA—The United Steelworkers says it has dug up what it calls close ties between the Chinese government and the reportedly privately-run coal mine in northeastern BC embroiled in a foreign-worker controversy.
The union released a report earlier this week that suggests HD Mining International Ltd.—the firm developing the proposed Murray River mine near Tumbler Ridge—has ownership links to the government in China, where workers receive low wages in unsafe conditions.
A union report titled “Who Owns Huiyong Holdings and other Questions on Planned Chinese-Owned Coal Mines in B.C. ” examines the ownership of Huiyong Holdings Group, which owns Huiyong Holdings (BC) Ltd., and holds 55% of HD Mining.
Steve Hunt, Western Canada director for the Steelworkers’ union, said Wednesday the union found little evidence of the company’s mining operations in China.
“We employed an investigator in China who has some knowledge of what goes on in China and we just searched the best we could possibly search and we couldn’t find very much detail on the company at all, other than some of the players,” he said. “We’re trying to find out something about the mines that they have. . .What are they experts in? It’s hard to do because we can’t find anything about them.”
Hunt said while the mines must operate according to Canadian safety standards, the union is concerned the Chinese miners may not be familiar with their rights should the mining company operate inappropriately. Hunt said the workers are essentially “indentured” to the company.
HD Mining issued a statement saying it is a Canadian company owned by Huiyong Holdings (BC), which holds a 55% interest, and Canadian Dehua Lvliang Ltd., which holds a 40% minority stake.
The statement said Huiyong Holdings (BC) is a Canadian company, 100% owned by Huiyong Holdings China. The statement said Huiyong Holdings China is a private company that has nine operating mines in China and “all of these mines are safe and efficient mines.”
“HD Mining does not understand what these allegations have to do with the union’s challenge to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and will continue to defend that litigation,” the statement said.
The union has been embroiled in a court battle to overturn 201 temporary foreign work permits allowing Chinese miners to come to Canada on the grounds there aren’t Canadians qualified to do the work at the proposed Tumbler Ridge-area facility.
HD Mining’s website says it brings state-of-the-art, high-efficiency, long-wall mining technology and new training initiatives for underground miners to the first underground coal mining project approved in British Columbia in recent years.
Hunt said the BC government has refused to make public the details of the Chinese mining deals, which came after Asian economic missions by Jobs Minister Pat Bell and Premier Christy Clark.
He said the union report concludes the government either didn’t know or didn’t tell British Columbians about the suggested close ties between Chinese-owned coal mines in the Tumbler Ridge area and the Chinese government.
“The questions we asked the premier are, did you know about it?” said Hunt. “How deeply did you investigate this company? If their expertise is based on what happens in mining in China, that’s the type of expertise we don’t need here. They kill a whole lot of people and hurt a whole lot more in China every year.”
A statement by Jobs Minister Pat Bell called the Steelworkers’ report “speculative.”