Kitwanga sawmill to re-open

  • Apr. 29, 2011 6:00 a.m.

A CLOSED sawmill in Kitwanga is due to re-open, thanks in part to the demand from China for BC wood.

Speaking in Terrace yesterday, Brad Bennett from mill owner Pacific BioEnergy, said maintenance workers could be back on the job as early as May 1 with operations to start the first week of June.

He expects 60 per cent of the production will be sent to China with the remainder staying in the country.

Prince George-based Pacific BioEnergy bought the mill and am area forest licence out of receivership in Sept. 2009 to provide a base to then build a pellet plant in the area.

It now makes economic sense to re-open the mill, said Bennett.

The biggest driver is the lumber market has improved to a point where it makes sense to run the operation as a standalone operation without any linkage back to the pellet facility. It’ll stand and make money on its own two feet,” he said.

When the pellet facility finally comes and we put all those pieces together, then it’ll just strengthen the business, and it’ll make more money.”

In the long term, the pellet plant will use sawdust, shavings and chips from the sawmill.

While there is no firm timeframe for the pellet facility yet, Bennett said the best case scenario would be this fall while it will more realistically be ready next spring.

The company has applied to lease land next to its sawmill for the pellet facility.

Pacific BioEnergy has one pellet plant in Prince George.

Pacific BioEnergy met with residents in Kitwanga April 27 to let them know its plans.

Our target date is June 6, basically, for reopening,” Bennett said, saying this depends on getting access to timber and getting a flow of timber to a point where it can support a plant.

They’re planning on opening the scales for log delivery by mid-May.

This means about 45 people will be back to work, and Bennett expects this number to ramp up in time.

The sawmill had been owned by a Lower Mainland company which closed it in 2008.

Established by the Hobenshield family of Kitwanga in the early 1960s, the mill was at one time owned by Westar, a holding company formed by the Social Credit government in the 1970s as a haven for companies it bought or bailed out, and by now-dissolved Skeena Cellulose.

Bennett gave an update on the company to around 30 industry stakeholders at a day-long forum at the Best Western April 28. It was hosted by the Skeena Nass Center for Innovation in Resource Economics, BC Timber Sales and FPInnovations and dealt with topics on fibre supply and products.