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Canfor closure fall out continues with remanufacturing plant closure

Mill had supplied Pleasant Valley Remanufacturing with raw product
Pleasant Valley Remanufacturing facility as viewed in this file photo from 2014. (File photo)

Pleasant Valley Remanufacturing is closing its doors for now because Canfor, the provider of the rough inventory it uses to produce value-added products, has stopped operating.

It means the loss of 75 direct and as many as 150 indirect jobs, said John Brink, the founder of Prince George-based Brink Forest Products which purchased the business 20 years ago.

Pleasant Valley, like other remanufacturers, does not have timber of its own so it relies on larger primary lumber producers such as Canfor to supply them with what they need.

Canfor announced in January it was closing its mill this spring, citing high operating costs and a slow market as reasons.

But it also said it is studying the idea of building a new and more efficient mill and will release its decision in July. It could then take up to two years for a new mill to open.

“We have not closed. But I am pausing. I cannot operate. So we have closed temporarily. Past that, I still hope that we can keep operating,” said Brink.

Brink said the Houston situation is symptomatic of a much broader province-wide picture where secondary manufacturers lack access to low-grade lumber for conversion into value-added products.

He had optimistic hopes that would change three years ago when then-Premier John Horgan announced a three-prong wood policy — expanding First Nations access to commercial timber, preserving old growth forests and promoting value-added manufacturing.

A full value-added effort would have produced thousands of jobs, diverted wood from being used just for 2X4s and added to the provincial economy in a critical partnership with large lumber producers, Brink said.

But that would have required wide-spread agreements between remanufacturers and large forestry companies for access to fibre and it simply did not happen, he added.

“The whole principle was access to timber,” Brink said. “Now what they do is low-grade lumber. They send it all into China.”

“So now we get to the point where most people that we will want to invest in secondary manufacturing [hold back] simply because there is no access to fibre.”

Brink now says he can’t get anyone in the provincial government to return his phone calls and it’s time for communities to speak up about access.

“The timber in British Columbia belongs to you and me and access to timber is a privilege,” he said.

He has also cancelled plans to spend $50 million to build a plant in Prince George that would add value to wood by producing mass timber, the term used when wood is joined together by glue or nails or other means to create strong structural panels, posts or beams.