Controversy over Canadian Dehua's hiring of Chinese miners
Ian Young in Vancouver
Plans to open Chinese-funded mines in Canada have been plunged into controversy after it was found that most of the workers will be mainlanders rather than locals.
Canadian Dehua International Mines Group, partnering with mainland investors, plans to operate four underground coal mines in northern British Columbia. The first group of 200 Chinese staff has been approved by the Canadian federal government to arrive in autumn, angering unionists.
The hiring of the Chinese miners was revealed last week. Founder and president of the Canadian firm, mainland-born Liu Naishun, said that Canadian Dehua had "not intended" to hire foreign miners and had done everything it could to find locals.
"Hundreds of jobs have been created in Canada. Dozens of consulting firms have been hired … for our projects," Liu said.
But job advertisements for Canadian Dehua's projects specified applicants who could speak Mandarin, without stating if this was a requirement or a preference. The advertisements - whose domestic placement was required before importing foreign workers - were apparently removed last month, but cached copies were found by the South China Morning Post.
The firm did not respond when asked about the likelihood of finding Mandarin-speaking coal miners in Canada, and offered no comment on the authenticity of the advertisements.
Stephen Hunt, United Steelworkers' director for Western Canada, said the union was "obviously not happy" when it heard of Canadian Dehua's plan to import Chinese workers.
"It makes no sense. It would be like us as Canadians going down to Peru to open a mine and bringing all our workers with us," Hunt said.
The first of Canadian Dehua's projects will be at the remote Murray River site, near Tumbler Ridge, about 1,100 kilometres north of Vancouver.
When the BC provincial government unveiled Chinese funding for Canadian Dehua's projects last November, no mention was made of the need for Chinese workers.