West Fraser Permanently Reduces Sawmill Production; Canfor and Conifex Curtail Sawmills

West Fraser in Quesnel, BC, will be eliminating a shift at its sawmill, said MyPrinceGeorgeNow Wednesday. The company says it will permanently curtail approximately 300 million board feet of combined production at its Fraser Lake, BC, and Quesnel sawmills.

A total of 75 employees will be impacted in Quesnel, over 1Q and 2Q 2019, although the company says it expects to mitigate the impact on affected employees by offering them work opportunities at other West Fraser operations.

The company says the decision better aligns production with timber supply in light of shortages resulting from the mountain pine beetle infestation. The industry has also faced US import tariffs that have been offset by higher lumber prices until they recently declined.  West Fraser had increased its production and harvesting to salvage timber affected by the Mountain Pine Beetle while it was still viable, always knowing it would mean reducing production later on.

The third shifts in the Quesnel and Fraser Lake sawmills will be shut down as of January 14, 2019, affecting 50 workers in Quesnel and 40 in Fraser Lake. The additional workers affected (25 in Quesnel and 20 in Fraser Lake) will be in the planer mill, and these shifts will be curtailed once those crews run through the inventory.

As well, according to the Times Colonist Monday, Conifex Timber Inc announced a two-week sawmill in Fort St. James, BC, curtailment beginning Monday and continuing until November 26 at that mill which is about 160 kilometres northwest of Prince George, BC.

These curtailments are due to falling lumber prices, stiff export duties, increasing log costs, and a drop in log quality as commercially viable mountain pine beetle timber runs out.

— Conifex CEO Ken Shields to the Times Colonist

A second two-week curtailment is also planned around the Christmas period. Conifex says it requires a 15 per cent cut in lumber production for the quarter.

Elsewhere, Canfor had announced November 1 that lumber production in BC would be reduced over 4Q 2018 through a decrease in operating days. This will be achieved through immediate short-term curtailments at some facilities, along with extended downtime at Christmas.

Canfor’s Houston, BC, sawmill did not run last week, affecting most of its 319 workers. That mill will also be down on November 16, 23 and 30, 2018.