The company that brought miners from China to work on a B.C. coal project says it is sending some of the workers back home and is not bringing any more to Canada for the time being due to court delays.

Two unions are challenging the government's decision to allow HD Mining to bring about 200 Chinese miners to work in northern B.C., rather than hire Canadians.

HD Mining announced in a release Monday that its 16 temporary foreign workers on the Murray River project are returning to China.

The workers were to have taken part in the extraction of a 100,000-tonne coal sample to determine the viability of full mine development, the company said.

"This was a difficult decision for us, but we are very concerned about the cost and disruption this litigation brought by the unions has caused to the planning of the project," said Jody Shimkus, the mine company's vice-president of environmental and regulatory affairs.

"We have also decided to delay bringing any additional workers to Tumbler Ridge until we have reliable certainty."

HD Mining is a partnership between China-based Huiyong Holding Group, which owns a 55 per cent stake, and Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc.

The company has argued that it can’t find enough Canadian workers to do the mining jobs at the project, near Tumbler Ridge, B.C..

The federal government, which approved the plan to bring the miners in on temporary work permits, announced it was reviewing the whole temporary worker program after the controversy ignited.

The chair of HD Mining, Penngui Yan, said in the release that the company has invested $15 million and remains committed to the mine project, "but we need to be able to rely on the Canadian legal system ... In the absence of being able to find Canadians qualified and interested to do this work, we need to know we can rely on the two-year temporary foreign worker authorizations we received."