Court says Chinese firm can face trial on safety charges in oilsands deaths

A unit of a giant Chinese petrochemical corporation can face trial on safety charges in the deaths of two oilsands workers.

EDMONTON — A unit of a giant Chinese petrochemical corporation can face trial on safety charges in the deaths of two oilsands workers.

The Alberta Court of Appeal has upheld a ruling that Sinopec Shanghai Engineering Co. can be prosecuted under the Health and Safety Act in the deaths of the men.

The court also ruled that the Crown can apply to hold a trial on the charges under the Criminal Code if Sinopec Shanghai does not show up in court.

The two temporary workers from China were killed in April 2007 when a storage tank collapsed at the Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) Horizon project.

Sinopec Shanghai, which brought the workers to Alberta, argued it has no official presence in Canada and was never properly served with legal documents.

One of the three appeal court justices wrote a dissenting opinion, so the company may seek leave to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Canadian Natural Resources is to go to trial on 53 charges Oct. 1, 2012 — more than five years after the workers died on the job.