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Raven Coal Mine Jobs: Myths and Realities

CoalWatch Comox Valley, February 2015

Myth 1: Investment in coal mining is an investment in jobs

Reality: Coal mining ranks lower than many other industries for numbers of jobs created.

It creates fewer jobs than, for instance, sustainable forestry, agriculture, infrastructure construction, and solar & wind energy production. “State of the art” coal mining technologies lead to even fewer jobs and are no guarantee of environmental or workplace safety.

Myth 2: The Raven mine will create 350 full-time jobs

Reality: This is the company’s MAXIMUM estimate for mine, port and transportation jobs. It is extremely unlikely that Raven will operate at full employment for a full 15.5 years.

It is much more likely that the number of jobs will fluctuate, with a small number of core full- time jobs and variable numbers of contract positions. Companies regularly over-estimate the numbers of jobs while they are promoting their projects. Compliance’s own technical report indicates that the mine will not be in full production for several years as it opens up the rock face, nor during the two years of shut down, nor will it be in full production at all times in between. Employment will depend on conditions found underground and the changing price of coal.

Myth 3: The Raven Mine will not compromise existing jobs

Reality: Any contamination of Baynes Sound would threaten 600 sustainable shellfish industry jobs. The mine’s presence will compromise the region’s reputation for beauty, and could negatively affect tourism jobs.

Myth 4: Workers will be paid an average wage and benefits package of $100,000/year

Reality: This is an AVERAGE - very few Raven employees will actually receive a “three figure” salary. And, this is the EMPLOYERS COST per JOB, not take-home pay.

A smaller group professional salaried staff and managers will be paid considerably more than the ZZ larger numbers of hourly workers. At least 40% of the $100,000 will be EI, CPP and other costs to the employer. Even with that, Compliance’s promised wages for hourly workers are actually higher than wages in comparable jobs, so holding them to that promise will certainly involve organizing by a strong union.

Myth 5: The mine will put unemployed workers back to work

Reality: Untrained people will not be able to walk up to the mine and expect employment.

Job ads in Canada and other countries call for underground mine employees who have considerable training AND experience. If the mine is to operate with maximum safety, all professionals, technicians, trades workers and labourers will need to meet specific certification qualifications plus have previous experience in a comparable mine environment.

Myth 6: Jobs will go to workers from mid-Vancouver Island

Reality: Most workers will be from outside the region or the country.

In 2103 the BC Mining Association reported a shortage of workers in the industry, and specifically among underground coal miners. Very few qualified workers live on Vancouver Island.

Myth 7: These are good jobs

Reality: Underground coal mines are still among the most dangerous workplaces on the continent.

Along with the ever-present threat of explosion and collapse, there are high rates of non-fatal injuries in U.S. coal mines and an increase in the incidence of "miner's lung disease". Processing plant and transportation workers are vulnerable to increased rates of cancer. “State of the art” design does not necessarily eliminate safety risks identified in inquires into mine explosions (Westray, Nova Scotia 1992, Pike River NZ 2010).

Job Promises: What’s happened at Quinsam Underground Coal Mine

Quinsam mine west of Campbell River is the only operating underground coal mine in Canada. When the mine was approved in 1984, Quinsam promised 248 full-time permanent jobs (Industry Canada still reports this figure). In reality it employed no more than 50 through the 1980s; between 75 and 230 (for a year or so) in the 1990s and 2000s. In 2013 Quinsam employed 140 workers, but laid off almost half (61) in 2014.

Job Promises: What’s happened at HD Mining’s Murray River Underground Coal Mine

HD Mining is developing a new underground coal mine near Tumbler Ridge in northeast B.C. HD Mining and its predecessor, CDI, claim they could not find experienced workers in Canada for underground jobs at the pay range advertised. The company applied for and received government permission to hire 201 temporary foreign workers from China to do this work. In 2012 BC unions challenged this decision in court, but lost the decision. HD Mining says that it has a 10 year training and transition program that “contemplates” a transition to Canadian workers.  

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