Canfor Corporation says it is “restructuring” its operations in British Columbia, permanently closing one sawmill and shuttering another for an extended period amid plans to build a new wood manufacturing facility.
A statement Wednesday from the Vancouver-based company says the sawmill and pellet plant in Chetwynd, B.C., north of Prince George, is expected to close early in the second quarter of 2023.
Meanwhile, it says the sawmill in Houston, B.C., west of Prince George, will close temporarily for an unspecified period as Canfor plans to build a “new, modern, globally competitive manufacturing facility” to produce “high-value products.”
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Canfor says preliminary engineering and budgeting for that project are underway, and the company will conduct a “comprehensive evaluation” of the availability of fibre to support the facility, making a final investment decision by the end of June.
Forests Minister Bruce Ralston issued a statement in response to Canfor’s announcement, saying the B.C. government is “committed to supporting forestry workers impacted by closures,” and community support teams have been activated.
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Canfor president Don Kayne says the company is making these “difficult but necessary decisions to create a more sustainable operating footprint” in B.C.
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“Our goal is to match our mill capacity with the economically available fibre for harvest,” his statement said. “This is what will ultimately create greater stability for our employees and communities.”
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While the near-term outlook in B.C. is “challenging” given the supply of fibre, he said, the province “remains an important part” of the company’s operations.
“The changes we are announcing will help make us smaller but stronger in B.C. and help ensure we can continue to contribute to the economy and quality of life here in the province for decades to come.”
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Canfor representatives did not immediately reply Wednesday evening to a question about the number of jobs affected by the closures.
The announcement comes just two weeks after Canfor announced it will permanently close the pulp line at its Prince George pulp and paper mill later this spring, affecting an estimated 300 jobs by the end of the year.
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Ralston’s statement notes B.C.’s annual allowable cut has declined with “unprecedented wildfires” in different parts of the province, as well as the wind-down of harvesting in forests affected by earlier mountain pine beetle infestations.
He said the province welcomes Canfor’s plan to build a manufacturing facility in Houston, where the minister notes the annual harvest has declined by more than 25 per cent compared with 2008, during the height of the beetle epidemic.
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