DECEMBER 18, 2012
Temporary Workers at Murray River Project Well-Paid

Paid $25-$40 per hour; $84,852-$113,652 per year

The Murray River Project is one step closer to becoming a reality through the issuance of a Section 11 order by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. This order establishes the scope, procedures and methods for how the environmental assessment for the Murray River Project will be undertaken.

Over the last several months, there has been a lot of misinformation about HD Mining, the Murray River Project and our efforts to recruit Canadian workers to mine in our underground coal mine. We believe it is important for people to know the facts.

Our project provides jobs to hundreds of Canadians. For a number of months now, we have been employing Canadians to undertake surface work in preparation for our underground bulk coal sample. In addition to our own employees, we have provided employment to hundreds of Canadians employed in providing services to our company. So far, we have invested over $50 million, including a $15 million housing development in Tumbler Ridge. We have received very strong local support from the Tumbler Ridge community.

We are using temporary foreign workers for our underground work, but only because we have to. We are bringing in temporary foreign workers for up to two years to complete the underground bulk sample phase of our project. We have not received approval for any use of foreign workers beyond this initial stage, and the bulk sample will determine whether the full mine is technically viable and the coal is marketable.

We are using temporary foreign workers only because we were unable to find Canadians that were interested and qualified for this underground work. The workers we are bringing in temporarily are employees of our parent company in China, and we are not recruiting for miners in China.

The use of temporary foreign workers is not something unique to our company. At the end of 2011, there were over 300,000 temporary foreign workers working in Canada, which is facing a skilled labour shortage in the mining and other resource sectors. The Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) forecasts that the Canadian mining industry will need 140,000 new workers over the next decade. In B.C. alone, MiHR estimates that as many as 16,700 jobs will need to be filled.

We followed the regulatory process for getting temporary foreign worker approval and must be able to rely on it. Two unions, the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 115, and the Construction and Specialized Worker Union (Labourers), Local 1611, have been aggressively pursuing a judicial challenge regarding the federal government's approval of our use of temporary foreign workers. We believe this litigation is not really about the permits issued for our project, but rather the union's concerns with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program generally.

Companies investing in this country must be able to rely upon government decision-making processes. We have relied upon these approvals in good faith, and have spent approximately $50 million to-date. We will continue to vigorously defend the permits we have received and the investment we have made.

We believe the federal court's decision last Friday to reject the unions' application for an injunction is a significant victory.

The wages and benefits we are paying our temporary foreign workers are very fair. The unions have suggested that our underground temporary foreign workers will not get benefits or fair wages. This is simply not true.

As our advertisements noted, the pay for various underground positions, including mining engineers, industrial electricians and underground coal miners, will be at rates of $25 to $40 per hour. When combined with benefits, housing and food costs, this would amount to annual compensation in the range of $84,852 to $113,652 per worker - hardly exploitative wages, as some have suggested.

We also advertised for mine foremen/forewomen, with salaries ranging from $90,000 to $130,000 annually. These rates are consistent with the Infomine Benchmark, which is an accepted prevailing industry standard.

We will be long time contributors to Canada and the local community. If the Murray River Project receives environmental certification and proceeds to full mine operations, it would create 600 direct jobs and 700 indirect jobs. We estimate that we would be spending $300 million dollars on this project, and it would generate $90 million of revenue for government annually, or $2.7 billion over the 30-year life of the project.

As a Canadian employer, HD Mining is working to transition long-wall mining skills and jobs to Canadian workers and employ, over time, a fully Canadian workforce. We have completed a training and transition plan that would apply at the operations stage, and we remain committed to that transition. We are working with Northern Lights College to develop a training curriculum for long-wall mining. The training and transition plan contemplates a complete shift to Canadian workers within 10 years of the mine beginning operations. And if we can shorten that time frame, we will do so.

The simple truth, however, is that you have to have an operational mine before you can provide jobs.

Penggui Yan is Chair of HD Mining International Ltd.

HD Mining International Ltd. is a Canadian incorporated company committed to the Murray River Project, an underground coal mine 12.5 km southeast of Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia. HD Mining recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Northern Lights College to train local workers in long-wall mining operations.