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Canfor to shutter B.C. sawmill, curtail Prince George pulp mill

A stack of lumber is pictured in Merritt, B.C., Tuesday, May 2, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canfor has announced it is permanently closing its Polar sawmill in Bear Lake, B.C., shutting a production line at its Northwood Pulp Mill in Prince George, and suspending its “planned reinvestment” in Houston, B.C.

The company says in separate news releases that the closures will impact 400 jobs, 180 at its Polar mill and 220 at the Northwood facility.

The company says a shortage of fibre is the reason behind the indefinite curtailment of one production line at the Northwood pulp mill, while Canfor president Don Kayne says timber is critical for its sawmill, but the harvest level has “declined dramatically.”

Click to play video: 'Canfor’s Prince George pulp and paper mill closing after 55 years of operation'
Canfor’s Prince George pulp and paper mill closing after 55 years of operation

He says the decline is partly due to natural disturbances, like beetle infestations and wildfires, but also to policy and regulation changes that have “hampered” Canfor’s ability to access enough fibre to support its facilities, forcing the closures.

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Canfor announced last September that it was planning to spend $200 million on a state-of-the-art mill in Houston, west of Prince George, shortly after it had announced the closure of its sawmills in Houston and Chetwynd.

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The Polar sawmill, about 70 kilometres north of Prince George, had an annual production capacity of about 300 million board feet, but has been shut since January.

Click to play video: 'Trickle-down effect of mill closures'
Trickle-down effect of mill closures

Kayne says in a news release that the company’s ability to reliably access enough timber to run the facilities is critical for the business.

“Unfortunately, while our province has a sufficient supply of timber available for harvest as confirmed by the allowable annual cut set by B.C.’s chief forester, the actual harvest level has declined dramatically in recent years.

“In 2023 the actual harvest was 42 per cent lower than the allowable cut, a level not seen since the 1960s,” Kayne says.

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Canfor Pulp, a subsidiary company, says it currently operates two pulp production lines out of its Northwood facility, which will continue to operate for the next few weeks, followed by an “orderly wind-down process” of one line.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 9, 2024.

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