British Columbia

Burns Lake sawmill to be rebuilt with conditions

The Burns Lake sawmill that was destroyed in an explosion in January will be rebuilt if it can secure enough timber supply, its owners announced today.

New mill will be smaller and employ about 100 fewer workers

Mill rebuild plans

11 years ago
Duration 2:22
The owner of B.C.'s Burns Lake sawmill intends to rebuild the mill destroyed by fire

The Babine Forest Products mill in Burns Lake, B.C., will be rebuilt confirms Hampton Affiliates and B.C. Jobs minister, Pat Bell — assuming certain conditions can be met.

The sawmill was destroyed by a devastating explosion and fire in January that killed two workers, and injured 19 others.

The mill was the town's largest employer, and the fire put an estimated 250 people out of work.

Monday morning, Hampton Affiliates said it intends to rebuild the Babine Forest Products mill, "subject to conditions being met." The final decision will be made in December.

According to a Government of B.C. news release, those conditions include adequate timber supply, and if the company is able to work out agreements with the community of Burns Lake and area First Nations.

Workers from the old Babine Forest Products mill applaud after hearing that the Burns Lake mill is expected to reopen in early 2014. (Stephanie Mercier/CBC)

Hampton Affiliates had said it needed at least 1 million cubic metres of wood annually to justify rebuilding the sawmill, but if it decides to proceed, a new mill could be operating as early as 2014.

Last month, a legislative committee reported there is enough wood surrounding the north-central B.C. town to support restarting the mill.

New mill will be smaller, says company

The company wouldn't disclose how much it would cost to rebuild the sawmill, indicating only that it would be "substantial."

However, Hampton Affiliates CEO Steve Zika confirmed the new sawmill will be smaller.

"The old one had a capacity of 350 million board feet," said Zika. "The new mill will be about two-thirds that size."

An aerial image shows the devastation of the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake, B.C. (CBC)

The new mill will also employ fewer people, the company revealed.

Zika said because of the smaller size and new technology, the mill will employ about 100-130 workers, down from 200-225, and is expected to reopen in 2014

The official cause of the mill explosion has still not been released by officials, but many experts have pointed to dust levels inside the mill as the likely cause of that explosion and a second one at the Lakeland mill in Prince George in April that also killed two people.