10/23/2012 05:29 EDT | Updated 12/23/2012 05:12 EST

Union Questions Why Mandarin An 'Asset' At B.C. Mine

Flickr: sebrenner
More questions are being raised about the temporary hiring of Chinese miners to work in underground coal mines in northeastern B.C.

The United Steelworkers Union says job ads posted on the Government of Canada’s job bank last year list speaking Mandarin as an asset.

Director Stephen Hunt says this raises questions about the requirements for working at the mines, especially after one company found no qualified Canadians to work at an underground mine near Tumbler Ridge.

"It doesn't smell right to us. It doesn't look right to a lot of people in British Columbia and Canada," he said.

"We just think it's a cheap way to bring people in to extract a resource that's been there for a million years."

HD Mining, the company developing the Tumbler Ridge mine, says speaking Mandarin is not a job requirement.

Vice-president Jody Shimkus calls the ad "an isolated case" and says it doesn't reflect the company's hiring policy.

She says inexperience — not language — is the reason no Canadian miners were hired to work underground.

Fourteen Chinese miners are set to arrive in Tumbler Ridge later this month, the first wave of 200 workers hired to work underground.

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