HD Mining transition could take longer than expected

Trent Ernst, Editor
 
HD Mining’s Murray River Project could have temporary foreign workers for up to 14 years, according to a transition plan the company submitted to the federal government and was made public as part of the ongoing court case last week. 
 
According to the document, HD would use temporary foreign workers to build the mine, a process which would take about two-and-a-half years. 
 
Once the mine was built, temporary foreign workers would be used at the mine for the first two years of operation as they set up a training school and start recruiting and training Canadians.
 
HD Mining is bringing the Chinese miners as there are no Canadians trained in the style of longwall mining they are planning on using for the Murray River Project. 
 
Jody Shimkus, Vice President, Environmental and Regulatory Affairs for HD Mining says the ten percent number isn’t the mine dragging its heels, but a reasonable projection based on regional and international analysis of the workforce. “We are hoping to transfer this skill set to Canadians. We want Canadians trained in this skill set,” says Shimkus. But finding enough people to work at the mine may prove to be difficult. Shimkus says if more people want to work in the mine than the company expects, the company will make the transition much faster. 
 
Because there is a shortage of skilled workers, says Shimkus, not just locally but around the world, the company has factored on replacing ten percent of the work force each year. “Not only is these a shortage of skilled workers, but there is going to be an increase in demand over the next five years, so we’ve been very conservative in our estimates.” 
 
The company’s estimates are backed up by a recent release from the Mining Association of BC, which says  the mining industry in BC is expecting 16,700 new hires over the next ten years.
 
Jobs Minister Pat Bell issued a written statement supporting HD Mining, saying HD Mining made extensive efforts to meet provincial workplace safety rules. The transition plan outlines the steps the company has put into place to ensure the mine meets provincial rules, including asking BC’s inspector of mines to review the issue of the use of Mandarin at the mine.
 
A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between Northern Lights College (NLC) and HD Mining to train students in underground mining technique. While there has been no official date set for the start of the new program, NLC officials expect it will be at least two years before the program is ready for its first intake of students. 
 
HD Mining is hoping to clear the environmental review process in the next year and a half, and is hoping to have the mine in operation sometime in 2014.