Western Forest Products shuts operations at Port Alberni, B.C., sawmill

Western Forest Products Inc. says it's indefinitely curtailing operations at one of its mills on Vancouver Island.

Company says shutdown was partly prompted by softwood lumber dispute

The Somass sawmill in Port Alberni, B.C. is to close indefinitely, said Western Forest Products. (Google Streetview)

Western Forest Products Inc. (TSX:WEF) says it's indefinitely curtailing operations at one of its mills on Vancouver Island.

The company said in a statement that the Somass sawmill in Port Alberni, where it manufactures western red cedar, has been in limbo since February. Before that it only operated with a single shift.

Western Forest Products said it intends to offer voluntary severance to its 77 hourly employees at the mill. 

The union said it was hoping for a different outcome. 

"We would much rather see that it was gonna carry on working," said Norm Macleod, president of the local Steelworkers union for the mill.

CEO Don Demens said the company will encourage employees to explore opportunities at its six Vancouver Island sawmills.

The company said it is focused on cost reductions to remain competitive, and the decision came amid a lack of log supply to operate efficiently, as well as uncertainty caused by duties recently applied to softwood lumber products going from Canada into the U.S.

Western Forest Products expects to increase production at its other Vancouver Island operations to offset lost production.

With files from Megan Thomas