BC Council of Forest Industries urges action on mill closures

A persistent shortage of economically available timber and challenging operating conditions in northern British Columbia, has led Canfor Corporation to permanently close its Polar sawmill in Bear Lake, British Columbia, and suspend its planned $200 million reinvestment in Houston, B.C., mill. 

Photo By Canfor

Canfor Corp. recently announced the permanent closure of its Polar sawmill in Bear Lake, B.C., and the suspension of its planned $200 million reinvestment in its Houston, B.C. mill. That came on the heels of the company indefinitely curtailing one production line at its Northwood facility in B.C. 

These actions, and other cutbacks in the Canadian forest products industry that has led to the loss of an estimated 10,000 jobs, led the Council of Forest Industries to voice concern over the escalating closures and curtailments of lumber, pulp, and paper mills in B.C. and urge action by the government. 

Linda Coady, president and CEO of COFI said the escalating closures and curtailments of lumber, pulp and paper mills in British Columbia mean the provincial government needs to "move faster to stabilize timber supply."

"Additional transition measures are needed within the next 60 days to address current challenges in approval and permitting systems, and changing land use policies that are leading to dramatic declines in harvest levels," Coady said in a statement.

"Each time a mill closes in BC, there is a substantial direct impact on employees and their families, with further consequences for local communities as well as across supply chains," she said. "The loss of high-paying jobs, local tax revenue and relocation to new employment opportunities have lasting effects in rural communities. It also creates uncertainty regarding the future of critical forest sector infrastructure and capacity in BC.

Premier David Eby has appointed Andrew Mercier as Minister of State for Sustainable Forestry Innovation to work with BC Forest Minister Bruce Ralston to stabilize the fiber supply. "We urge the province to accelerate the work being done to find solutions," she said.

The forest industry is one of the economic drivers in the BC economy – key to BC’s manufacturing productivity, government revenue and exports, which can be seen in COFI’s latest Economic Impact Study. With dropping harvest levels, mill closures and curtailments have continued and resulted in the loss of 10,000 jobs (direct, indirect and induced) in 2023. Access to economic fiber has fallen from 60 million cubic meters in 2018 to 35 million cubic meters of actual harvest in 2023. The actual harvest in 2023 was 42 percent below the allowable annual cut last year.

"The past few months have seen increased discussions across industry, First Nations, labor, contractors, local communities and the provincial government on what can be done to stop this trajectory and stabilize fiber supply in both the short and long term. Now is the time for additional steps to be taken to build investor confidence and ensure a long-standing and foundational industry continues to benefit the province.” 


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Larry Adams | Editor

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about woodworking, he has covered science, metrology, metalworking, industrial design, quality control, imaging, Swiss and micromanufacturing . He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).