West Fraser today announced its intention to permanently close its Chasm lumber mill and eliminate the third shift from its 100 Mile House lumber mill, both to occur during the third quarter of 2019. The mill closures are expected to impact approximately 176 employees at Chasm and approximately 34 employees at 100 Mile House. This comes a week after Norbord announced it will close its oriented strand board plant in August, putting 160 people out of work.
“We sincerely regret the impact this decision will have on our employees, their families and the affected communities,” said Ray Ferris, West Fraser president and chief operating officer. “We will be making efforts to mitigate the effects of this business decision, including opportunities for affected employees to transition to other company locations.
“This decision is not a reflection of the contributions of our employees, contractors and the communities where these mills operate. It is the result of well-documented timber supply constraints owing to B.C.’s devastating mountain pine beetle infestation, recent record wildfires, price declines in lumber markets and high saw log costs. As a result of reduced harvesting levels set by the Chief Forester of B.C., there is insufficient timber supply to support the current lumber production capacity of the lumber mills in these locations. Today’s decision better aligns West Fraser’s production in the region with current timber supply.”
Lumber production is anticipated to be permanently reduced by approximately 314 million board feet as a result of this announcement. In 2018 and 2019, West Fraser will implement total temporary and permanent capacity curtailments of approximately 125 million and 614 million board feet respectively.
The company says it has made $600 million in investments in its operations since 2013 to ensure modern, efficient and well-capitalized B.C. operations are competitive in anticipation of the reduced long-term post-beetle timber supply in the province.
Earlier this month West Fraser announced it will be shutting down five mills in the Interior for one week. The affected mills are in Chetwynd, Quesnel, Williams Lake, Smithers and Fraser Lake.
Last week West Fraser announced a quarterly dividend of $0.20 per share on the common shares and class B common shares in the capital of the company, payable on July 17, 2019 to shareholders of record on June 26, 2019.