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West Fraser to permanently close Fraser Lake sawmill

West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. announced Monday it will permanently close its sawmill in Fraser Lake following a wind-down process. The decision is the result of West Fraser’s inability to access economically viable fibre in the region, according to a statement issued by the company.

The closure of Fraser Lake Sawmill will impact approximately 175 employees. West Fraser expects to mitigate the impact on affected employees by providing work opportunities at other West Fraser operations.

“We do not make these decisions lightly,” said Sean McLaren, President & CEO, West Fraser. “We know this announcement has a significant impact on our employees, their families, our suppliers and the local community, who all rely on a healthy forest industry.”

“Upset is an understatement of where we are at right now,” said Fraser Lake Mayor Sarrah Nahornoff-Storey on her Facebook Page. “My thoughts go out to the communities impacted and our region. To the families and workers losing their jobs we are all with you right now as you reel from this.”
The impact goes beyond just job losses, as it also affects taxation, volunteerism, sports, the school system, businesses, equipment owners, and contractors,” she said.
“This was Fraser Lake’s last major industry and will impact our community with around 65 per cent of the 177 workers losing their jobs and almost $1.0 million in lost taxation to go along with Endako’s lost taxes,” she said. “It’s truly disheartening to see families and workers losing their jobs, especially considering that the Fraser Lake Sawmill has been a significant industry in the area for over a century. Fraser Lake Sawmill has been here for 105 years since 1919 moving locations once in 1977. I sure pray the province helps us through this and implements the Resource Benefit Alliance this year.”

The mill closure will reduce West Fraser’s Canadian lumber capacity by approximately 160 million board feet.

“Today’s announcement, combined with our recent decision to indefinitely curtail operations at Huttig, Arkansas and close our sawmill in Maxville, Florida better align our capacity with demand and available sources of economic fibre,” said McLaren. “We believe these initiatives, along with the decision to divest three pulp assets and acquire Spray Lake Sawmills in 2023 make West Fraser stronger through the cycle.”

West Fraser anticipates recording restructuring and impairment charges of approximately $81 million in the fourth quarter of 2023 related to facility closures and curtailments due to availability of economic fibre sources in British Columbia.

Nechako Lake MLA and Conservative Party of B.C. leader John Rustad is pointing the finger at both the former Liberal government, which he was a part of, and the current NDP government for the closure.

“The company says it is unable to access economically viable timber to continue operations,” he said on his Facebook page. “This is what happens when you have a government with policies that have made BC the highest cost producer and who continues to restrict access to fibre. I chaired a committee more than a decade ago called the mid-term timber supply. It was an all party committee that made recommendations to help B.C. through this challenging time. It is tragic that neither the NDP or the BC Liberals implemented the unanimously supported recommendations.”
BC United Party (formerly the BC Liberals) candidate in the Nechako Lake riding, Shane Brienen, is pointing the finger directly at Rustad and his involvement in the mid-term timber supply review.
“Our current MLA, John Rustad who has commented on the Fraser Lake Sawmill closure, even though he’s been missing in action for years now, has shown a lack of leadership from an elected official for nearly two decades,” said Brienen in a statement from the party. “Real leaders take ownership for situations − they don’t hide behind others. As chair of the Mid-Term Timber Supply Committee, and Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, John was directly positioned to realize the positive change our forestry industry needed back then, and into the future.”

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