Juniper sawmill to close permanently

The major employer in the small community of Juniper, northeast of Florenceville, is closing for good.

The major employer in the small community of Juniper, northeast of Florenceville, is closing for good.

The Twin Rivers Paper Co. announced this week the permanent shutdown of its sawmill, after operating intermittently with a small crew for the past several years.

The sawmill once employed more than 200 people, but it's been on an indefinite shutdown since February 2009. There have been two brief re-openings.

Tim Fox, general manager of the Carleton-Victoria Forest Products Marketing Board, said the closure doesn't come as much of a surprise to the western New Brunswick community.

"That's a lumber mill and we all know what the housing start affect in the United States has done to those mills," Fox said Thursday.

"I think it's just another example of what's happening in the industry as a whole."

It's not yet known where the Crown land allotment for the mill will be going, Fox said, but he's hoping the allocation will stay in the area to help any local processors.

While there were few workers left at the Twin Rivers mill, Fox said the mill closure will have a long-term effect on the community of Juniper.

Three Rivers Paper Co. was created in May 2010 from the insolvent papermaker Fraser Papers Inc.

Residents angry

Besides the small mill in Juniper, Twin Rivers Paper employs about 1,300 workers, more than 550 of them in Edmundston and at the company's other sawmill in Plaster Rock.

Residents of Juniper are angry that the company is sending wood to its Plaster Rock sawmill.

"Our wood should not be leaving this community. Because I live right up the road and I sit and watch our logs go to Plaster Rock, when they could be going to our mill for our men to work, not for them to work," said Sharon Oullette, whose husband worked at the Juniper mill.

Raoul Thibodeau, who worked at the mill for 25 years, said Juniper will become "a ghost town" without the mill.

"They never had no meeting with us to say they were going to shut the mill down for good. Nothing like that. We just got a letter in the mail, that's it," he said.

"And they're taking our wood and taking it to Plaster Rock. And to us, it's not fair. That new company ain't got no guts or no heart and the government ain't got no guts or no heart to help us."

Marla Mills, who owns the village's only store, agreed the government has done nothing to help the residents.

"The new government that is in now had promised they would do something to help this mill, and they've done absolutely nothing," she said.

"Everything has gone to Plaster Rock, meaning they're taking our wood to supply their mill and that just doesn't make sense. It's just not right. And the people have to stand up and certainly get that taken care of, whether it's blocking roads or whatever we have to do to stop that."

Many former mill employees have already moved away to find work.