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Canfor to close sawmill, curtail pulp production citing B.C. policy changes

VANCOUVER (From news reports) -- Canfor has announced it is permanently closing its Polar sawmill in Bear Lake, B.C., shutting a production line at its Northwood Pulp Mill in Prince George, and suspending its "planned reinvestment" in Houston, B.C.

The company says in separate news releases that the closures will impact 400 jobs, 180 at its Polar mill and 220 at the Northwood facility.

The company says a shortage of fibre is the reason behind the indefinite curtailment of one production line at the Northwood pulp mill, while Canfor president Don Kayne says timber is critical for its sawmill, but the harvest level has "declined dramatically."

He says the decline is partly due to natural disturbances, like beetle infestations and wildfires, but also to policy and regulation changes that have "hampered" Canfor's ability to access enough fibre to support its facilities, forcing the closures.

Canfor announced last September that it was planning to spend $200 million on a state-of-the-art mill in Houston, west of Prince George, shortly after it had announced the closure of its sawmills in Houston and Chetwynd.

The Polar sawmill, about 70 kilometres north of Prince George, had an annual production capacity of about 300 million board feet, but has been shut since January.

Kayne says in a news release that the company's ability to reliably access enough timber to run the facilities is critical for the business.

"Unfortunately, while our province has a sufficient supply of timber available for harvest as confirmed by the allowable annual cut set by B.C.'s chief forester, the actual harvest level has declined dramatically in recent years.

"In 2023 the actual harvest was 42 per cent lower than the allowable cut, a level not seen since the 1960s," Kayne says.

Canfor Pulp, a subsidiary company, says it currently operates two pulp production lines out of its Northwood facility, which will continue to operate for the next few weeks, followed by an "orderly wind-down process" of one line.


Vancouver, BC (News release) - Canfor Pulp Products Inc. announced that it will indefinitely curtail one production line at its Northwood facility in Prince George, British Columbia due to the decline in availability of economic fibre in the northern BC region. The curtailment will result in the reduction of approximately 300,000 tonnes of market kraft pulp annually.

"While the region has a substantive supply of sustainably grown timber, harvest levels are well below the Allowable Annual Cut partly due to natural disturbances, but increasingly because of the impact of a range of policy choices and regulatory complexity," said Kevin Edgson, President and CEO, Canfor Pulp. "The persistent shortage of economic fibre, particularly in the Prince George region, has led to the closure or curtailment of a number of sawmills, which in turn has dramatically reduced the volume of chips available to meet the needs of our pulp operations. Despite exhaustive efforts, including expanding well beyond our traditional operating region, there is simply not enough residual fibre to supply the current production capacity of all our operations."

Canfor Pulp currently operates two pulp production lines at its Northwood facility and one production line at its nearby Intercon facility. The Company will continue to operate both lines at Northwood over the next few weeks, followed by an orderly wind-down process of one line at the beginning of the third quarter. This reduction in capacity will impact approximately 220 jobs across Canfor Pulp.

Edgson continued, "We are frustrated and disheartened to have to make this decision and know it has a significant impact on our employees, their families, local businesses and the community. We have set up a transition team and will work with our union to support our employees as we plan an orderly winddown."

With the reduction of one line at Northwood, Canfor Pulp will have total annual capacity of 480,000 tonnes of market pulp. Canfor Pulp's Specialty Paper facility in Prince George will continue to operate with a total annual capacity of 140,000 tonnes of kraft paper.

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