Sawmills closing in beetle aftermath

Quesnel, Houston mills to shut next year as owners trade timber cutting rights to keep competing mills going

Babine Forest Products mill in Burns Lake is being rebuilt after fire destroyed it and killed two workers Jan. 20

Sawmills in Quesnel and Houston are to be closed next year as their owners trade timber cutting rights to maintain competing operations in the two B.C. Interior communities affected by mountain pine beetle infestation.

Canfor Corp. announced it will close its Quesnel mill in March 2014, transferring its forest licence for the region to West Fraser to supply logs to its recently rebuilt Quesnel mill. West Fraser announced it will close its Houston mill next year, trading part of its cutting rights to Canfor to supply its Houston operation.

West Fraser CEO Ted Seraphim said in a statement its Houston closure will affect 225 employees. The company plans “major rebuilds” of its sawmills in 100 Mile House and Smithers, and is proceeding with a bioenergy projects at its Fraser Lake and Chetwynd operations.

“Our first priority is to explore opportunities to transition Houston employees to one of our other operations, and we will provide assistance in finding new employment,” Seraphim said.

Canfor CEO Don Kayne said the 209 employees at its Quesnel mill will be offered positions elsewhere in the company.

“The additional fibre we have been able to secure in the exchange agreement with West Fraser enhances the fibre requirements for our Houston facility,” Kayne said.

Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad, who chaired a review of Interior timber supplies in the wake of last year’s explosion and fire at Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake, said he expected the decision to reduce mill capacity in the Quesnel region.

“The surprise is the closure of the Houston mill, from my perspective,” Rustad said. “I think West Fraser has always been looking at how they want to move the wood between the three mills, but when we looked at the opportunities in the Houston area on the timber supply component, there was a significant amount of wood in that area, and our hope was it would continue to support two mills.”

Rustad said the decision last December to provide timber for Oregon-based Hampton Affiliates to rebuild its Burns Lake sawmill “had only very minimal impact” on supply for the other mills in the region.

NDP forests critic Norm Macdonald said the government had warnings from the Forest Practices Board, the auditor general and industry leaders that the beetle infestation would lead to mill closures.

“The creation of a jobs protection commissioner could provide a consistent and systematic economic transition for these kinds of forestry-dependent communities,” Macdonald said.

Forests Minister Steve Thomson was scheduled to return Friday from a lumber trade mission in Japan and China, along with industry executives from across the province.

 

Just Posted

Regional unemployment rate drops

But fewer people are working overall

Horizon North construction to start soon

The first gear will start rolling into Kitimat at the beginning of 2019

Haisla yet to sign LNG benefits deals with the province

Other First Nations already receiving cash payments

Area First Nations benefit from LNG Canada project

Agreements with province provide cash, land

Work begins on a new Haisla health centre

It will include a telehealth room, a place for visiting physiotherapists and dentists

Story of the Year: Deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash

The Canadian Press annual survey of newsrooms across the country saw 53 out of 129 editors cast their votes for the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

Trump signs order to create US Space Command

President Donald Trump signs an executive order to create a U.S. Space Command.

Groups preparing new pipeline legal challenge, argue government’s mind made up

A Vancouver-based environment charity is readying itself to go back to court if the federal government reapproves the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Notorious Toronto triple killer gets third consecutive life sentence

Dellen Millard gets third consecutive life sentence for father’s death.

‘Subdued’ housing market predicted in B.C. through 2021: report

The Central 1 Credit Union report predicts “rising but subdued sales” over the next three years, with little movement in median home prices.

A journey through 2018’s top pop culture moments

Was there any pop culture this year? Of course there was.

‘A stronger Alberta:’ Ottawa announces $1.6B for Canada’s oil and gas sector

Price of Alberta oil plummeted so low that Alberta’s Premier said Canada was practically giving it away

Wicked weather, including heavy snow, rainfall, hammers southern B.C.

Environment Canada has posted winter storm warnings for the Coquihalla Highway, Highway 3

Caretaker jailed, must pay back money after stealing $260K from elderly B.C. couple

Antonette Dizon, now 50, had been hired to provide extra care for Henry and Helen Abfalter

Most Read