Mining company says its BC coal project will be back after miners controversy

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VANCOUVER - Just days after it said it was pulling the plug on a coal mining venture in northeastern British Columbia, a company embroiled in a controversial temporary foreign-worker program says it plans to be back in operations.

Canadian Dehua International Mines Group said on Saturday that it has decided to wind down work at its Wapiti River coal project, located southeast of Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

The Dehua mine had been in the exploration phase, and the shut-down was to become effective Sunday at midnight.

Dehua also holds a minor stake in the nearby Murray River mine, an operation proposed by HD Mining that's come under fire and is facing court action for its plans to hire temporary Chinese workers.

But Dehua announced Monday evening that it was changing course, after it had received a request for information on the planned shutdown.

"Dehua would like to inform the public that all efforts are being made to bring the Wapiti River Project back into operation," stated the company in a media release.

The company said it's in intensive talks with its investors to explain the court action it's currently facing, as well as other concerns.

Two unions are pursuing a judicial review of the federal government's decision to grant HD Mining temporary foreign worker permits for 201 miners from China.

HD Mining has fought back and has filed an appeal of the Federal Court ruling that granted the unions the review.

"Dehua has high expectations that business at Wapiti River will be back on track as a result of its efforts," stated the company.

The announcement comes at a busy time for the companies and residents of Tumbler Ridge, a town of about 2,700 that was incorporated in 1981 to support nearby coal mines.

HD Mining held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the weekend to celebrate its more than $15 million investment in housing in Tumbler Ridge, which will be used by workers at its nearby Murray River coal mine.

HD Mining also signed an agreement last week with Northern Lights College to work together to train Canadian workers to staff its long wall underground mining operations, which the company says is the first of its kind in Canada.

The company says its transition plan includes eventually having Canadians do the work.