Aftermath of fatal April 23 explosion and fire at Lakeland Mills.
Aftermath of fatal April 23 explosion and fire at Lakeland Mills.

PRINCE GEORGE, VANCOUVER - Lakeland Mills Ltd. announced today it will build a new sawmill to replace the one destroyed in an explosion and fire on April 23, 2012, that left two employees dead.

In a special March 20 press briefing, Greg Stewart, president of Sinclar Group Forest Products, of which Lakeland Mills is a division, noted the company's commitment to the community and to its employees. "Today is a great day for Lakeland, for our employees and for the community of Prince George," he said. "As a company, we believe in this community. Three generations of owners and employees have lived and worked here for 50 years. So this decision is as much about our belief in family and community as it is a good business decision."

Construction is expected to begin this spring and be complete by summer 2014. Stewart said the exact size and production capacity are not yet available as the design development is still ongoing. He added that approximately 100 people would be hired for two shifts at the mill.

The mill will produce stud lumber, with the ability to manufacture metric lengths in addition to the American Lumber Standard. Stewart said the flexibility will allow Lakeland to diversify its markets. It will be integrated with the existing planer mill, which is still operational, and the energy system Lakeland operates in partnership with the City of Prince George. It also will incorporate the most advanced safety protocols available in all areas of its operations to ensure a safe work environment, the company said in a statement.

The Lakeland Mills explosion, along with one at Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake on Jan. 19, 2012, has spurred WorkSafeBC to launch a combustible dust strategy requiring full-hazard identification, risk assessment and safety reviews at hundreds of sawmills and wood-related facilities. In December it was reported that the two companies could each face fines of up to $652,000 if found guilty of violating the Workers Compensation Act.

"April 23, 2012 was the worst day in our company's history, and it began a year of challenge and sorrow for all of us," said Stewart. "I want to acknowledge the families of Glenn Roche and Al Little, the two employees who lost their lives that night. It is in their memory, and to honor all those impacted by this tragic event, that we will rebuild for the future."

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