Nfld. & Labrador

Not your typical pile of wood: Massive stack of Muskrat Falls timber sold to Chinese buyer

Some of the earliest work on the Muskrat Falls project in Labrador was cutting timber to make way for the site of the future hydroelectric station. That felled wood has been sitting idle ever since, but now will soon be on its way to China.

JP Forestry had planed to chip the timber for biofuel until they found a buyer for whole logs

Greg Penney, Dean Joyce, and Innu Nation Grand Chief Etienne Rich are optimistic about the new timber deal. (Submitted by Greg Penney)

Some of the earliest work on the Muskrat Falls project in Labrador was cutting timber to make way for the site of the future hydroelectric station.

That felled wood had been sitting idle ever since, but it will soon be on its way to China.

JP Forestry, a company that specializes in wood chips, reached an agreement with the Innu Nation last summer to sell off timber leftover from the Muskrat Falls project.

While the wood was originally slated to be shipped to Europe, the company has reached a new agreement to sell much of the whole timber to a Chinese company.

Greg Penney, the CEO of JP Forestry, said he and his partner, Dean Joyce, had long seen the potential in the leftover wood.

"There's just so much of it that we came up with the idea of using it for biomass — for the European market — for wood-chips to burn instead of burning coal," he said.

While they'll still be selling some wood chips in Europe, it will be secondary to their new venture.

While some of the timber was cut as long ago as 2013, the company says the wood remains in good shape because it is frozen for at least seven months a year. (Submitted by Greg Penney)

"We were approached recently by a Chinese company to actually buy the whole logs," said Penney.

"We have to trim them to size, so there's going to be a lot leftover, and there's going to be a lot of wood not suitable for that market."

The 400,000 cubic metres of timber were cut between 2013 and 2015.

Despite the timber having been cut more than half a decade ago, and sitting unused in that time, Penney said the quality of the wood has been preserved by the region's climate.

"It's frozen probably seven or eight months a year," he said.

"It's not necessarily lumber quality, and I'm not even sure what the Chinese are going to use it for, but it's actually in very good shape."

Anything that doesn't meet their standard will be chipped, along with the wood trimmed from the logs. That material will be shipped to another buyer in the U.K.

"There won't be any wastage whatsoever," Penney said.

Round-the-clock hauling ahead

According to Penney, it was their sales manager in Toronto, who he said is well connected in Europe and China after 30 years in the wood-fibre business, who found the Chinese buyer.

JP Forestry had also initially planned to operate out of Wilburn Bay, but after some pushback from residents they'll now be shipping directly out of Goose Bay.

The Muskrat wood alone will take the entire summer to process, with what Penney expects to be round-the-clock hauling of timber from their sites to the docks in Goose Bay.

The first shipment of that timber is due out at the end of May, and with only 20 employees, Penney said, they'll need to hire more.

All told, JP Forestry will be looking to hire nearly 100 people throughout its operation.

Despite the change in their initial plan, Penney said the partnership with the Innu Nation is still going strong. 

"We meet with the grand chief and his committee every month. We met with them just a week ago, and we had just had two brand new, huge pieces of forestry equipment come into Goose Bay," said Penney. "They are incredible partners."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador 


Conor McCann is a freelance writer and journalist from St. John's.

With files from Labrador Morning