Canadian Mining Journal


COMMENT: Chinese workers headed to Greenland

If something happens twice, does that indicate the beginning of a trend? The "something" is governments allowing foreign workers to fill jobs at mining projects. With the blessing of Canada's federal government, HD Mining is importing...

If something happens twice, does that indicate the beginning of a trend? The “something” is governments allowing foreign workers to fill jobs at mining projects. With the blessing of Canada’s federal government, HD Mining is importing “temporary” Chinese workers for its Murray River coal project in British Columbia. Greenland has passed legislation that will allow the employment of Chinese workers in Greenland at the Isua iron ore project belonging to London Mining plc.

In Canada, the idea of Chinese workers arriving to fill jobs at a coal mine was first floated a few years ago. Then the plan fell below the radar until The Globe and Mail newspaper revived the story a week ago when it was learned that speaking Mandarin is a requirement for working at the Murray River project.

In Greenland, the new legislation paves the way for companies to employ foreign workers at lower wages than they would pay natives of Greenland. All political parties voted for the law, with the exception of the largest opposition party which abstained.

The situations in Canada and Greenland vary on one notable point: Canada has a skilled mining workforce, Greenland does not.

By virtue of our world class mineral industry, Canada has a knowledgeable, inventive and hardworking pool of labour from which to choose. Granted, there are shortages of skilled workers as many current employees retire. But that doesn’t mean it is impossible to find miners in this country.

A notable exception was the commissioning of the Kidd Creek copper smelter in Timmins, ON, in 1981. This writer was on the site along with a couple dozen Japanese technicians sent by the manufacturer to ensure a smooth start-up. They brought with them knowledge of running an identical smelter in their homeland. The technicians were on the manufacturer’s payroll, not employees of Kidd Creek Mines. When commercial production was reached, they left Canada.

This arrangement – a manufacturer sending employees to ensure hoists/haul trucks/shovels or mineral processing circuits run smoothly – has become accepted practice in Canada.

Greenland lacks a mineral industry of much size, hence there is no mining culture or workforce in that country. In that case, importing miners from China probably makes a certain amount of sense. Paying foreign workers less than Greenlanders would earn for the same work is incomprehensible. If London Mining had to pay the higher wages, would importing a workforce still make economic sense? Maybe the use of cheap labour is an easy means of lining the pockets of management and shareholders.

Canadians should keep an eye on the foreign workers in the BC coalfields. If they are there only because they provide cheap labour at the expense of Canadian workers, we cannot conscience that.

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4 Comments » for COMMENT: Chinese workers headed to Greenland
  1. Michael says:

    There is no need to bring chinese workers to Canada. There are lots of people in this country that can be trained to do these jobs. This practise has to stop now.


    This is outrageous that foreign workers would be brought to do work which can be easily performed by Canadian workers. With unemployment over 7% and many Canadians looking for work, how can the government allow this to happen?

    A report on suggests that “HD Mining plans to start hiring Canadians after 4 years” and that it will be another 10 years before the entire workforce would be Canadian.

    Soon after the approval for CNOOC to buy Nexen, we come to know of this? How will Canadians be convinced that Nexen employees may not have their jobs in the years to come?

    I will be writing to my MP about my disappointment with this. I would encourage other Canadians to do the same.

  3. Gord Bacon says:

    Unfortunately, there are a great many Candian workers that are not interested in working in Murray River if it is not a flyin fly-out situation. They do not want to move their families there. They do not want to work underground in a coal mine. There are not a lot of underground coal miners in Canada except in the Eastern provices and unlike Fort McMurray they are not offerring come out and go home rotations at the mines exspense.

    New graduates are not willing to take their wives and young families to remote locations now as we did in the past.

    The mine may have already tried to get local (B.C.) union miners to apply unsuccessfully.

  4. D Byrne says:

    While it may seem ridiculous that industries and individuals have to hire workers from other countries, it is a reality. You can talk about unemplyment, people looking for jobs or any other excuse you want for not bringing in workers from other countries, the reality is the majority of people not working do not want to work (Not All) as long as the system is willing to support those that are not working and have no intention of committing to a work career we will have to bring in workers from other countries to fill the required jobs. “To bad so sad”.

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