Recent History – 2001
Oct. 18, 2001
By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
Seven months after announcing a temporary shutdown, Louisiana-Pacific has finally given up on its Chetwynd pulp mill.
Blaming a weak market for the product, the company announced Thursday that the mill will be closed indefinitely and will be put up for sale.
“The mill, which has curtailed production since April 2001 due to prolonged weak market conditions, will remain down until a new owner can be found,” Louisiana-Pacific states in a news release. “The company will maintain, winterize and secure the mill, while actively continuing efforts to sell it.”
All the 192 people who worked at the mill are out of a job and another 90 contract loggers and other industry-related workers will be affected.
Chetwynd Mayor Charlie Lasser said the loss of the well-paying jobs will also have a large impact on the town, which has a population of about 3,100 and a trading area of about 7,500 people.
He said that the only other jobs of a similar wage level in the area can be found at the construction site for the new Westcoast Energy Kwoen gas plant south of Chetwynd, but once completed it will employ only 15 people full-time.
As well, Western Coal Corporation is expected to have a small-scale mine operating on the Burnt River property south of the town by this time next year, which would create 40 full-time jobs.
Lasser said the mill, about a dozen years old, is possibly the smallest bleached-chemi-thermo-mechanical in the world, and lacked the economies of scale to compete with the larger versions of its kind.
But he believes that with the right ownership, the mill can be viable.
“I’m still hopeful that somebody will come along and buy the mill out because with some investment it could be a productive mill again,” he said.
He’s hoping that once the dispute with the U.S. over softwood exports is settled, someone will step in to get the mill operating again.
“Then I expect to see some of these big companies take a second look and maybe mix a blend of softwood and hardwood chips together and make a different product,” he said.
Mill manager John Ecclestone gave the town a heads-up last Wednesday when he told the Rotary Club that the mill would be closed within the next two weeks, saying that operating the facility would cost Louisiana-Pacific a shortfall of about $12 million a year.
The shutdown is the second this week by a B.C. forestry company. On Monday, Norske Skog Canada said it will close its Powell River, B.C. mill in late November, resulting in the loss of 280 jobs.
Louisiana-Pacific said it will take a fourth-quarter charge of about $5 million to $10 million US for severance and other mill closure costs.
The Chetwynd mill produces 160,000 tonnes of bleached pulp a year.