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Canfor closing Chetwynd mill permanently; Houston mill temporarily

Canfor is permanently closing its Chetwynd sawmill and pellet plant and temporarily closing its Houston sawmill for an extended period to facilitate a major redevelopment on the site.

The closures are “to better align manufacturing capacity in British Columbia with the available long-term fibre supply,” according to a company statement.

“We are making these difficult but necessary decisions to create a more sustainable operating footprint in B.C.,” said Don Kayne, President and CEO. “Our goal is to match our mill capacity with the economically available fibre for harvest to enhance our ability to compete and to operate throughout the market cycles. This is what will ultimately create greater stability for our employees and communities, while ensuring we can continue to provide the high quality, low carbon products that are in demand by our customers around the world.”

The company intends to build a new, modern, globally competitive manufacturing facility that employs state of the art technology to produce high value products from the sustainable timber supply in the region. Project planning, scoping, preliminary engineering and budgeting are underway. The company will undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the availability of economic fibre and a thorough project financial analysis, supporting a final investment decision by the end of the second quarter of 2023. Both facilities will be closed following an orderly wind down of operations that is expected to conclude early in the second quarter of 2023 and will remove approximately 750 million board feet of annual production capacity.

“Today’s announcement is incredibly difficult for the workers, their families and the communities they live in,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests, and Brenda Bailey, Minister of Jobs Economic Development and Innovation in a joint statement. “Our government is committed to supporting forestry workers impacted by closures and also to support good, long-term jobs in the sector.

“Our immediate priority is to support the workers and families impacted by the closure of the Chetwynd sawmill and pellet mill, and the temporary closure of the Houston mill. Community support teams have been activated and will be there to connect workers with the services they need.

“Forestry is and will remain a foundation of the B.C. economy. Our government has made recent investments as part of our ongoing work and commitment to ensure that forestry remains a strong and sustainable industry in British Columbia.

“We welcome Canfor’s plans to build a modern, globally competitive manufacturing facility in Houston, ensuring good forestry jobs remain in the region, and aligning with our government’s goal to produce higher-value products from the available sustainable timber supply.”

The allowable annual cut has declined due to the end of the beetle kill harvest and unprecedented wildfires around the province, they said. In the Houston area, the annual harvest has declined by more than 25 per cent compared to 2008 during the height of the beetle epidemic.

In the last week, government announced the $90-million BC Manufacturing Jobs Fund that will promote value-added innovation in the forestry sector, $50 million in funding to increase fibre supply, and launched a new program to provide dedicated access of timber to valued-added manufacturers.

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