Terrace sawmill re-opens

Poor markets had closed Skeena Sawmills over the summer

Skeena Sawmills has announced it will be reopening after a two month hiatus during an ongoing slowdown in asian timber sales.

“We are starting in sequences,” mill official Roger Keery said last week, adding that full production should be kicking in the last week of September.

Next week the large log line will start and the week after the small log line will be moving, he said. At the same time, the mill will start up its planer mill.

When the mill is producing at full capacity, it is processing 30 truckloads of logs a day into various forms of lumber, 80 per cent of which goes to Asia.

The mill employs 85 people for production and another 15 in backend roles.

Including the number of logging contractor employees the total work force generated by the business is about 140-150.

Keery said he is pleased that his workers are coming back after being laid off for the summer. “I was really concerned about that,” he said. “It seems that our employees have stuck with us and I appreciate that.”

He says the loyalty speaks to the workers’ attachment both to Terrace and to Skeena Sawmills as an employer.

“I think part of it was timing, everyone in Terrace likes the fishing season over the summer and I think took advantage of that, and I think Terrace is a good place to live and we are a good employer and people believed that we were going to go back to work and stuck with us,” Keery said.

The halt in production saw stacks of lumber waiting in its Terrace yard and at Prince Rupert, waiting to be shipped to Chinese end markets.

With such a large proportion of the mill’s customers residing in China, that leaves 20 per cent up for domestic sales.

The U.S. is a challenging market for the Terrace-based mill because of its distance and lack of direct rail access which means wood has to first be moved through Vancouver.

“We’re freight-disadvantaged to get to the U.S.,” Keery said.

Another reason why U.S. buyers are scarce is because they are looking for treated wood. “We don’t have enough kiln capacity,” said Keery.