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COVID-19 and Northern Pulp closure a ‘perfect storm’ for province’s forestry sector

The Northern Pulp mill in Abercrombie Point, N.S., is viewed from Pictou, N.S., December 13, 2019. The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed a leave to appeal by the province of Nova Scotia over whether it must consult with a Mi'kmaw community on how public money is provided to the Northern Pulp mill's effluent treatment plant.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan.
The Northern Pulp mill in Abercrombie Point, N.S., is viewed from Pictou, N.S., December 13, 2019. The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed a leave to appeal by the province of Nova Scotia over whether it must consult with a Mi'kmaw community on how public money is provided to the Northern Pulp mill's effluent treatment plant.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

The global COVID-19 pandemic is being described as the latest addition to the “perfect storm” facing Nova Scotia’s beleaguered sawmill industry, leading some companies to cease purchasing fresh supplies of logs.

Robin Wilber, the spokesman for the Wood Products Manufacturers Association in Nova Scotia, says the recent mothballing of the Northern Pulp factory is combining with the challenges of depressed prices for some forestry products due to the global pandemic.

READ MORE: After Northern Pulp mill closure, anxiety mounts in rural N.S. communities dependent on forestry

The owner of Elmsdale Lumber says he and some other sawmills in the province will stop buying new supplies of logs as of Friday, and instead use existing inventories of logs on their property as the COVID-19 crisis works its way through the global economy.

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Wilber says the pandemic has intensified a crisis the industry was already going through in the Maritimes after the closure of the subsidiary of Paper Excellence in Pictou County.

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The pulp mill closed after the province rejected its request to continue pumping treated effluent into a lagoon behind a Mi’kmaq community, prompting the mill to stop production on Jan. 31.

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The mill had purchased wood chips the mainland Nova Scotia sawmills produced as a byproduct of their lumber production, and the mills say they’ve struggled to find alternative markets for their chips since its closure.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 28, 2020.