In Brief

Citing numerous violations of the British Columbia Mines Act and Mines Code, the USW is calling for the suspension of work at a northern B.C.coal mine.

BURNABY - The United Steelworkers (USW) has filed a complaint against HD Mining with B.C.'s Minister of Mining Rich Coleman and Chief Inspector of Mines Al Hoffman citing numerous violations of the B.C. Mines Act and Mines Code, and is asking that the Ministry order a suspension of work at the company's Murray River coal mine in northern British Columbia.

The complaint involves the company's use of temporary foreign workers from China and its plans to teach those workers 100 words of English prior to commencing work.

The union points to sections of the Health Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in British Columbia which requires that in order to understand and comply with the occupational healthy and safety rules and standards, all workers in mines must have appropriate facility in the English language.

In addition, the Code mandates that individual workers understand and fully comply with the following documents and procedures:

  • The operation of a joint health and safety committee
  • Material safety data sheets
  • Extensive confined spaces procedures
  • Special requirements and training of a mine rescue team member
  • The written lockout procedure and training
  • Log books for suspended work platforms
  • Emergency and rescue plans
  • All provisions of the Mines Act, Regulations and the Code, in relation to the operation of mobile equipment
  • Log books for mobile equipment
  • Operating procedures for the introduction of water into rock passes

The union says these requirements make clear how essential it is to the safety of each employee that everyone on a mine site has an adequate grasp of the English language.

"Given the dangers posed by a continuous production underground coal mine, it is critical that all workers have a clear understanding of workplace safety and rules at all times. Inserting a foreign national without fluency in English into such a maze of overlapping and precise safety requirements is a recipe for disaster," says Steve Hunt, United Steelworkers Director for Western Canada.

HD Mining had indicated publicly that it is only required and only intends to teach their temporary foreign workers 100 English words.

"Given the importance of competency to the safe operation of a mine, the idea of teaching employees only 100 words of English is extremely disturbing, and it is clearly contrary to the purposes of the Mine Code," Hunt says. "This rudimentary knowledge of English will not even come close to satisfying the requirements of the Code."

The union is asking that the ministry invoke its powers to order a suspension of work at the mine until they are brought into compliance with the Code, and further, that the ministry utilize its powers under the Mines Act to conduct an investigation into these violations.

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Steve Hunt, Director, 604-816-2554
Brad West, USW Communications, 604-754-1774

USW complaint letter to the B.C. Minister of Mining