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HomeNews"It came out of the blue,": Canfor's Polar curtailment sends shockwaves throughout...

“It came out of the blue,”: Canfor’s Polar curtailment sends shockwaves throughout forestry sector

Canfor has confirmed 190 people will be impacted by the six-month shutdown at their Polar Sawmill north of Prince George.

United Steelworkers 1-2017 President Brian O’Rourke told the announcement came out of the blue but the company did provide more clarity on when it will take effect.

“That is going to start sometime in January. So, they are going to run out of their inventory from what we are told as of right now so we should be meeting with them in the next couple of weeks and see what is on the books there.”

“What we have been told is the BC Timber Services haven’t gotten to put permits out yet. Albeit, when they do that, those permits are open for bid and could go to anyone.”

It’s been a tough year for Canfor operations in the north.

In January, the company announced the permanent curtailment of its pulp line at the PG Pulp and Paper Miller along with the closure of its Chetwynd operations.

“The Chetywnd operations were permanently shut down, which again was due to fibre supply. This would have freed up a little more timber I am guessing that would have gone to Fort St. John,” said O’Rourke.

In addition, Canfor also closed its Houston mill for a period of two years and has since announced plans to build a new facility in that community.

O’Rourke did throw out a solution that would keep the Polar location a lot more operational during this lean period.

“We were told out in Houston when they curtailed, that they were going to maintain their logging activity. Obviously, for a good reason to keep the logging contractors because if you stop them, trying to get them back when the time comes to log again can be difficult. So, we are still not certain where those logs in Houston might be going. That might be a good avenue whether or not it’s feasible to transport them to Polar to keep that operation running during these tough times.”

The Polar curtailment will remove approximately 140 million board feet of production.

Furthermore, Council of Forest Industries President, Linda Coady stated the latest curtailment is part of a much bigger issue their organization is fighting.

“We need to streamline the harvest development permit process. We are working with the government and if we can work with First Nations communities and labour to improve these processes we can have an opportunity to de-bottleneck.”

“It’s really a critical area of improvement.”

Simply put, the restricted access to fibre that is currently in place is causing major headaches across the board.

“It’s creating an extremely challenging situation that sawmills across BC now find themselves in. It’s really critical to our forest industry in BC that mills have access to a reliable and sustainable supply of economic fibre.”

“We have dedicated harvest areas that companies can’t access due to the amount of time it is taking to get the harvesting approvals. And, it’s really that lack of access that continues to lead to closures and curtailments across the sector.”

Coady adds harvesting in BC this year is operating at 40% below the annual allowable cut levels.

“We are harvesting well below our potential right now.”

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