Canfor to shut sawmill in Prince George, B.C., reduce production at nearby pulp mills
Slow economy, shortage of wood fibre to blame, company says
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be harming an already unstable industry — B.C. forestry.
Canfor announced Wednesday it is closing the Isle Pierre sawmill near Prince George, B.C., and introducing curtailments at Prince George Pulp and Paper and Intercontinental Pulp.
According to a media release from the company, the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic is to blame, as it created an insufficient supply of viable timber. It also cites economic instability due to the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for the closure.
Approximately 94 people are employed at the Isle Pierre mill, and the company had previously cut operations down to one shift. Canfor President and CEO Don Kayne said the company will try to redeploy as many employees as possible into other positions within the company.
The closure is expected to take place mid-August.
A reduction in pulp and paper production at both Prince George Pulp and Paper and Intercontinental Pulp will begin July 6, and will last for about four weeks. The company said this decision is also a result of the economic downturn created by COVID-19, and a shortage of fibre.
The two facilities, which are located one kilometre apart, employ a total of 640 people in northern B.C.
B.C. Forestry Minister Doug Donaldson says he will be in touch with the union representing those mills to find out how the government can support the workers affected by the closure and curtailments.
"If [market conditions] come back, they'll be coming back slowly," Donaldson said.
"It's hard to predict what we're going to be seeing into the future. I'm hopeful that the rush of permanent closures is over and that the curtailments will slowly lift as the markets come back."