This is surely one of the stranger dimensions of the coal export saga we’ve been cataloging: the Canadian government is approving guest-worker status for as many as 2,000 Chinese nationals to extract coal from British Columbia’s underground mines.

As the Vancouver Sun reports:

Canadians “just don’t have the experience” operating the equipment needed to safely extract coal in underground mines, said John Cavanagh, chief executive of Vancouver-based Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc., a company founded by China-born Vancouver businessman Naishun Liu.

Understandably, Canada’s unions are not exactly thrilled with the idea:

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  • Stephen Hunt, western director for the United Steelworkers union, ridiculed Tuesday the suggestion Canadians couldn’t be trained to work underground.

    “Bullshit,” he said of Cavanagh’s assertions.

    “That’s just a cop-out, a way to bring in guest workers who are going to go into a camp, contribute virtually nothing to the economy, and then when they’re done they’ll be sent back to China,” he said.

    I don’t know anything about Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program, but I think it’s fair to say there’s something odd about the whole thing: not just because Chinese workers will dig up BC’s coal but because almost all of BC’s coal is exported, mainly to East Asian manufacturing centers where it is used in steelmaking and other types of industry.

    In British Columbia the economic upside of coal exports is getting thinner and thinner. (And that’s to say nothing of the grave environmental and health problems created by coal). If anything, the province is starting to look like the very definition of a resource colony.