The government of British Columbia has rejected a proposed deal with a Swiss company for the sale of Skeena Cellulose.

Instead of going with Mercer International, the Competition Ministry has decided to begin negotiations with Northwest B.C. Timber and Pulp.

The sale could be concluded by Feb. 8.

Court protection from Skeena's creditors is due to expire a week later.

Thousands of jobs are at stake at the pulp mill in Prince Rupert, as well as sawmill and logging operations in other parts of the region.