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

West Shore firefighters band together to support men’s health

More than $8,200 raised for Movember campaign

UPDATE: Four vehicle crash on Sooke Road snarls traffic in Colwood

Sooke Road reopens to traffic in both direction

Belmont students, staff reunite family with long-lost war medal

Medal belonged to Sharon Hoover’s great-great uncle

Students learn valuable lessons at the 10,000 Tonight food drive

Leadership students embrace community events at Royal Bay Secondary

Santa hits West Shore streets with local fire departments

Firefighters help to raise food and cash for a worthwhile cause

VIDEO: That’s a wrap: Be a Santa to a Senior packages ready to go out

Program hands out more than 600 gifts to Greater Victoria seniors

B.C. woman brain injured in crash as a baby gets $1.1 million in damages

Trial heard the woman was 16 months old, being carried by her mother when they were both hit

Victoria cycling advocate makes pitch lor lower speeds on local roads

Group points to evidence suggesting 30 km/h speed limit would save money, lives

Court denies WestJet’s bid to toss out discrimination lawsuit of former worker

Mandalena Lewis is suing WestJet over allegations of gender-based discrimination

Sagmoen neighbours recall alleged hammer attack

Woman was screaming outside Maple Ridge townhouse in 2013

Accused B.C. drug smuggler to be extradited

Supreme Court of Canada upholds extradition order for accused Shuswap drug smuggler, Colin Martin

Island entering the peak of flu season

Island Health says flu shots the best prevention against the virus

One convicted, two cleared in 2014 deaths of men in B.C.’s Cariboo

Andrew Jongbloets convicted of manslaughter in deaths of Matthew Hennigar, 23 and Kalvin Andy, 22

Firefighter dies, thousands more take on California blaze

This is second death linked to the Thomas fire, northwest of Los Angeles

Most Read