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Canfor cancels planned new northern B.C. mill, closes another, curtails a 3rd

Forestry firm won’t build new sawmill in Houston, closes mill in Bear Lake, Prince George pulp line
Canfor’s closed Houston sawmill. It has announced it won’t replace it. (Angelique Houlihan/Houston Today)

Ending months of speculation, Canfor has announced it is abandoning plans to replace its closed sawmill in Houston.

At the same time, the B.C.-based forestry giant also revealed it is permanently closing its Polar sawmill in Bear Lake, B.C., and shutting a production line at its Northwood Pulp Mill in Prince George.

“With the policy and regulatory landscape in B.C. continuing to shift, it’s difficult to predict the operating conditions that we will face going forward,” Canfor president and CEO Don Kayne said Thursday (May 9).

“As such, we have made the difficult decision to suspend our plan to build a new state-of-the-art sawmill in Houston, as we are not confident that an investment of this magnitude can be successful at this time.”

Worries began to grow in the community earlier this spring concerning exactly when Canfor would begin dismantling the mill it closed more than a year ago.

Canfor indicated last fall it would build a new mill and do so on the property containing the old one.

“The ability to reliably access enough economic timber to run our manufacturing facilities is critical for our business,” said Kayne.

“Unfortunately, while our province has a sufficient supply of timber available for harvest as confirmed by the Allowable Annual Cut set by BC’s Chief Forester, the actual harvest level has declined dramatically in recent years. In 2023 the actual harvest was 42 per cent lower than the allowable cut, a level not seen since the 1960s.

“While this decline is partly the result of natural disturbances – beetle infestations and wildfire particularly, it is also the result of the cumulative impact of policy changes and increased regulatory complexity.”

The company says in separate news releases that the closures will impact 400 jobs, 180 at its Polar mill and 220 at the Northwood facility.

The company says a shortage of fibre is the reason behind the indefinite curtailment of the Northwood pulp mill production line as well.

Canfor Pulp, a subsidiary company, says it currently operates two pulp production lines out of its Northwood facility, which will continue to operate for the next few weeks, followed by an “orderly wind-down process” of one line.

Canfor announced last September that it was planning to spend $200 million on a state-of-the-art mill in Houston, shortly after it had announced the closure of its sawmills in Houston and Chetwynd.

The Polar sawmill, about 70 kilometres north of Prince George, had an annual production capacity of about 300 million board feet, but has been shut since January.

Kayne called today’s announcement heartbreaking for the company and for the impact on its employees.

—with files from The Canadian Press

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About the Author: Rod Link

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