100 Mile to gain new West Fraser sawmill

West Fraser has announced it will rebuild the 100 Mile Lumber mill next year

By Carole Rooney 100 Mile House Free Press

West Fraser has announced it will rebuild the 100 Mile Lumber mill next year.

The new, updated facility will have modernized methods and equipment to keep up with the forest industry’s global marketplace.

100 Mile Lumber general manager Peter Andrews says this is “very good news” for the community.

“We will be focusing on getting better lumber recovery, significant improvements in dust management, getting more value from each log and making the mill a safer work environment.

“The new mill will be designed to match our future log supply as best we can forecast today.”

West Fraser is proceeding with detailed engineering design work on the rebuild of the 100 Mile House sawmill, he explains, and has already begun work to rebuild its log yard.

It plans to get as much site work completed before winter as possible, Andrews says, adding Katchmar Construction has been contracted for the log yard improvements.

“The scope is substantial, and will see us completely revamping and redesigning our log break down, lumber processing and residual [chip, bark, sawdust] handling systems.”

He notes some of the equipment has been ordered, and quotes and delivery date confirmations are underway for the balance of the components to be replaced.

“We expect to do the bulk of the rebuild in the summer of 2014, but will start on some areas in the spring.

“At this stage, we are planning to have the project work completed by August/September, and will be working through our [new mill] start-up through to the end of 2014.”

While West Fraser’s press release notes an outstanding competition bureau approval, and includes a clause for potential changes, West Fraser Woodlands vice-president Dave Lehane says that is a “standard discloser.”

“We are confident that this is going to move ahead. We’ve made the decision and we are confident the transaction is complete and will proceed.

“Certainly, there is a normal regulatory review of any transaction of this nature.”

He explains “it’s time” for these upgrades, as West Fraser wants to ensure a local facility that utilizes modern technology and is globally competitive.

“We’ve made a decision to make an investment in 100 Mile House, and our expectation is we will be doing an upgrade to the sawmill [in] 2014.”

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett says this positive news affirms West Fraser’s commitment to the community, and assures their local mill’s longevity.

“It gives more stability when you see that a company is going to spend millions of dollars on their facility. It shows that there is fibre to support the mill.”

While there remains significant scientific review work to be done on the Interior timber supply, Barnett adds it “bodes well” for the future of the South Cariboo.

Lehane adds timber supply remains a challenge for the industry, but agrees it is a positive signal for the community and its prospects in the forest industry over the upcoming years.

This latest industry news also comes with the announcement that West Fraser will close its sawmill in Houston, and Canfor will shut down its mill in Quesnel. The two forest companies have come to an agreement to swap certain fibre harvesting tenure rights in the nearby supply areas.

Lehane says the devastating impacts of the mountain pine beetle on the future of the industry in the British Columbia Interior has led to this “very difficult, but necessary” decision.

“Our first priority is with the employees and their families. There are numerous employment opportunities across West Fraser, and we will be working with our employees individually to find [placement for] as many of them as possible in other locations.”

Barnett notes beetle-related mill closures have been expected in the province since 2006, but adds her “heart goes out” to the affected employees in Houston and Quesnel.

Read the West Fraser news release and backgrounder at www.westfraser.com/investors/news/news-releases.