By Laura Keil
Canfor in Quesnel and West Fraser in Houston announced on Oct. 24 their mills will close next year.
“This is difficult news for these communities and families,” said Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour in a statement on Friday.
“Workers impacted by these closures are concerned about their futures,” Bond continued. “I want each one of them to know that our government has already engaged with their community leadership to find out what is needed in the coming weeks.”
Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations also issued a statement from Beijing, where he is concluding a forestry trade mission to Japan and China.
“Unfortunately, given the mountain-pine-beetle infestation, this news is not unexpected,” said Thomson in the statement. “This government has invested over $884 million to mitigate the beetle’s economic and environmental impacts, which includes supporting regional beetle action coalitions and economic diversification funding through the Northern Development Initiative Trust.”
Statements on both Canfor and West Fraser’s websites explain that the closures are part of an agreement for an exchange of forest tenure rights. Canfor will shut down the Quesnel mill and exchange forest tenure rights in the Quesnel and Lakes Timber Supply Areas for tenure rights in Morice Timber Supply Area, to better support its mill in Houston. West Fraser will close their mill in Houston, and will use the tenure rights to “help maintain the competitiveness and viability of several of West Fraser’s B.C. interior mills”
“The timber availability in the Quesnel region following the mountain pine beetle infestation unfortunately leaves us unable to continue operation of our Quesnel sawmill,” said Don Kayne, President and CEO of Canfor Corporation in a statement. “The additional fibre we have been able to secure in the exchange agreement with West Fraser enhances the fibre requirements for our Houston facility.”
“The mountain pine beetle devastation has and will continue to undermine the availability of merchantable timber in the interior of B.C.,” Ted Seraphim, West Fraser’s President and CEO, said in a statement. “The shutdown of our Houston mill has been a difficult decision and we will work closely with the affected employees to support them through this process.”