The United Steelworkers (USW) wished HD Mining a very Merry Christmas by filing a judicial review application in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, in an attempt to quash the company’s coal mine exploration permit.
According to the application, the USW claims that BC’s Chief Inspector of Mines “acted improperly and contrary to legal obligations in granting HD Mining an exploration permit for its Murray River coal mining operations.”
USW Western Canada Director Stephen Hunt says, “Our union contends that serious health and safety issues were ignored when the permit was granted to HD Mining in March 2012. We have grave concerns about the decision to grant this permit, the process that led to this decision and the potential consequences.”
The USW alleges the permit was granted without due or proper consideration of the serious safety concerns that arise with the introduction of non-English-speaking employees at HD Mining’s operations.
According to the USW, they have obtained documents that show the Chief Inspector of Mines was aware of this danger but did not address these concerns through normal or proper regulatory channels.
“Based on concerns initially raised by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) through the temporary foreign worker permitting process, the Chief Inspector of Mines offered advice to CIC and HD Mining on how HD Mining might address safety concerns,” says a release from the USW. “The Chief Inspector provided this advice outside of the normal statutory process and without providing any means to legally enforce his recommendations. In so doing, the Chief Inspector of Mines facilitated the circumvention of the mine permitting process rather than fulfill his statutory duty, which is to ensure compliance with the Mines Act, Regulation and Code.”
The new action comes seven months after an earlier challenge, brought by the USW and the Construction and Specialized Workers Union was dismissed. The USW’s new application for judicial review relies on evidence gleaned from scores of provincial and federal government documents, including numerous files obtained from requests made under freedom of information legislation.
The USW says the Chief Inspector of Mines exceeded his jurisdiction, erred in law and breached the rules of natural justice and procedural fairness. Errors cited in the union’s claim include:
Processing a notice of work application that ignored relevant factors related to the safe operation of the Murray River Mine;
Improperly sub-delegating the enforcement of the Mines Act to Citizenship and Immigration Canada;
Ignoring or circumventing the clear, statutory procedure set out in the Mines Act, Code and Regulations;
Failing to take proper and reasonable consideration of facts and circumstances related to safe working conditions and the proper operation of the Mines Act when it was aware the majority of workers had little to no English language competency;
Acting so as to create a reasonable apprehension of bias;
Acting for a purpose contrary to the Mines Act.
The USW’s application names the Chief Inspector of Mines, the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines and HD Mining International as respondents.
In addition to quashing the exploration permit, the USW is asking the court to order the respondents to produce “reasons for decision, the process commencing the proceedings, related correspondence, the evidence and all exhibits filed and any other documents contained in its record.”