Weak markets close mill doors

THE DOORS to the Kitwanga sawmill have closed just three months after a flashy July photo-op celebrated its grand opening.

THE DOORS to the Kitwanga sawmill have closed just three months after a flashy July photo-op where BC Premier Christy Clark and jobs minister Pat Bell celebrated its grand opening and a resurgence of forestry jobs.

Forty-five workers lost jobs from the mill directly, and Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson said more dependent jobs were lost resulting from halted economic activity.

It’s a matter that led Donaldson to demand answers in provincial legislature about why Canadian raw logs are being shipped overseas for processing instead of creating secondary jobs in B.C.

“The Premier got the photo opportunity, and the workers got pink slips,” he said in provincial legislature Nov. 1. “That’s this government’s job action plan in action.”

In Kitwanga’s case, a softened Chinese market and high stumpage tax for that region set up a shaky start for the mill in early summer.

Although the Kitwanga mill sold 95 per cent of its lumber to Canada and 5 per cent to China, the Chinese market influences prices here, and the mill’s doors were forced closed October 7 because it was losing money, said mill owner Pacific BioEnergy’s vice president Brad Bennett.

Pacific BioEnergy was also working toward opening a pellet plant using the mill’s wood waste. While there is still a healthy European market for that product, the plant won’t be operational until the sawmill can at least break even, he said.

“Having the sawmill is the key piece of the puzzle,” he said, noting development plans are still underway for the pellet plant. For the sawmill, Pacific BioEnergy is looking into what niche markets for specialty wood products exist to get it back up and running.

But Donaldson doesn’t think it should have come to this.

“When will the Liberals get serious about the problems facing forestry and ensure B.C. logs for B.C. jobs,” he said in legislature Nov. 1.

Clark responded by saying in order to ensure any jobs in forestry, customers are needed.

“Those customers aren’t in abundance south of the border like they once were,” she said, noting the province has worked hard to find new customers overseas. “In some months we have seen more softwood go to China than it has to the United States for the very first time in history.”

Bennett said the ability to export raw logs actually helped the mill because it offset the cost of manufacturing. What did hurt the mill was a combination of weak markets, poor weather which made it harder to access logs, and a lack of available manpower up north in the forestry industry, he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATE: missing 12-year-old Terrace boy found safe

Was reported missing on Southside around 10 p.m. July 9

Terrace conservation officers relocate Spirit bear

Bear roamed Kitsumkalum Valley north of Terrace for many years

Seabridge Gold starts drilling along proposed tunnel route north of Stewart

Twin tunnels will connect the KSM mine to its mill and tailings site

Mother grizzly bear with two cubs spotted on Gruchy’s Beach trail near Terrace

Conservation officers also warning public to stay away from Grizzlies on lower Kitimat River

Village of Gingolx upgrading trails, studying campground improvements

Initiative is one of 39 trail and recreation projects to receive provincial funding

Horgan says B.C. restart making gains as more people come out of their homes

B.C. announced the easing of more restrictions on businesses, recreation and travel last month

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Lower Mainland YouTubers claim to be Kelowna display toilet ‘poopers’

RCMP can not speak to legitimacy of video, will be investigating

Haida matriarchs occupy ancient villages as fishing lodges reopen to visitors

‘Daughters of the rivers’ say occupation follows two fishing lodges reopening without Haida consent

RCMP confirm homicide investigation underway near Quesnel

Police releasing few details four days after homicide occurred Monday, July 6

Conservatives say police should be called into investigate WE charity scandal

Trudeau is already under investigation by the ethics commissioner for potential conflict of interest

Amber Alert continues for missing Quebec girls, 6 and 11, and their father

Police issued the alert for Norah Carpentier, 11, and Romy Carpentier, 6, from Levis, Que.

Most Read