Video: Two B.C. sawmills announce closures due to pine beetle epidemic

Two B.C. sawmills announced Thursday they are closing up shop, and both say the pine beetle epidemic is to blame.

Canfor says the company will permanently close their Quesnel sawmill, while West Fraser Timber also announced they will be closing their Houston, B.C. sawmill.

In a statement, Canfor said that their 209 Quesnel-based employees will be offered jobs elsewhere in the company, while West Fraser Timber says it will help their 225 Houston employees move to other jobs in B.C. and Alberta “where possible.”

Both companies blamed the closures on the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

“The mountain pine beetle devastation has and will continue to undermine the availability of merchantable timber in the interior of B.C.,” said Ted Seraphim, West Fraser’s President and CEO in a statement.

“The shutdown of our Houston mill has been a difficult decision and we will work closely with the affected employees to support them through this process.”

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The news comes as a shock to the interior town of Houston, whose population is just over 3,000.

“There was no warning at all,” says Houston Mayor Bill Holmberg.

“I got a call from MLA John Rustad at 2:10 saying there was an announcement at 3pm. They’re making a business decision and I respect that, but a little more information would have been nice.”

“A lot of the details aren’t clear yet, the wood still has to go somewhere. But it’s a huge impact on the community.”

The mill closures were one of many announcements the two companies made today. Canfor announced it was exchanging 382,000 cubic metres of replaceable forest licence allowable annual cut in the Quesnel and Lakes Timber timber supply areas with West Fraser, in exchange for nearly 54,000 cubic metres in the Morice timber supply area.

In addition, West Fraser said it would proceed with major rebuilds of its 100 Mile House and Smithers sawmills.

Holmberg said Houston — which still has a large sawmill operated by Canfor — will survive. But he said the closure shows how rural economies are rapidly changing.

“Everybody’s aware of the pine beetle and reduction in timber that was going to come because of that. But I don’t think anyone expected it quite this fast, even though we knew sooner or later mills were going to have to close because there just isn’t the volume of wood,” he says.

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“Hopefully Christy gets her LNG projects under control and gets them going, because there’s going to be lots of people looking for work.”

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