Canfor mill remains closed

And company to shut Isle Pierre operation permanently

Canfor is keeping its Houston mill closed for now. (File photo)

Canfor is keeping its Houston mill closed for now. (File photo)

Canfor’s Houston sawmill remains closed with no specific opening date set.

“We’re closely assessing overall production capacity against customer demand,” said Canfor official Michelle Ward of a current market hit hard by reduced economic activity because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canfor first announced COVID-19-related cuts and temporary closures the end of March which affected Houston and elsewhere.

Those closures, including at the Houston mill, were then extended into all of April and now again into May.

And last week Canfor announced it was permanently closing its Isle Pierre mill east of Vanderhoof, a victim it said of COVID-19 and an uneconomic source of timber for the facility because of the mountain pine beetle. It had been down to one shift a day, employing 94 people.

Isle Pierre did open last week but only to run down its log inventory, said Ward.

Its permanent closure is to take effect the third quarter of this year.

Isle Pierre sawmill has an annual production capacity of approximately 120 million board feet and is currently a one-shift operation.

Additionally, the company also announced last week it will be closing operations at Prince George Pulp and Paper and Intercontinental Pulp, for approximately four weeks starting July 6.

Canfor’s operations in Chetwynd in the northeast and Elko in the southeast did re-open May 11 at four days a week but its operations at Polar north of Prince George and Radium in the southeast, as with Houston, remained closed.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canfor extends troubles the company and the broader forest industry in B.C. have been facing thanks to the high cost of wood and American tariffs.

These current COVID-19-related closures in Houston continue openings and closings which began in late 2018.

The province responded last year by offering up an aid package worth $65 million which included financial incentives for workers to retire earlier than they might have planned by offering pension bridge payments until their own pensions became active.

–with files from Aman Parhar