Canfor looking at possible repurposing of Vavenby sawmill site

At a meeting earlier this month there was speculation on the fate Canfor’s Vavenby mill site, and though a representative of the company said it will not operate as a sawmill again, there were suggestions made on how the site could be repurposed.

“With respect to the site, as there isn’t sufficient fiber supply to support a sawmill there, the site will not operate as a sawmill again. However, we do believe there are other potential industrial uses for the site,” said Stephen Mackie, senior vice-president of Canadian operations for Canfor.

Taking into account the network of transportation infrastructure at the site, and the access to skilled labor in the area, there is potential for other industries that could create jobs there.

Mackie said Canfor is committed to working with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District and the Clearwater community and will keep both up to date if there are and developments or if interest is shown for any repurposing of the site and the company is open to suggestions from those who have ideas on what the site could be used for.

For the time being, Canfor is looking at short-term uses that might create local employment and economic benefits, like using the site for pipeline construction storage, possibly setting up a chipping facility, or using the scales in the log yard to weigh and store logs.

“We’re considering all these opportunities, and we’re particularly focused on ones that could support local employment and economic benefits for the communities,” Mackie said, adding Canfor is committed to supporting employees and contractors as much as possible.

“That includes looking for job opportunities in other operations across Canfor, working with Interfor collaboratively to identify opportunities for employees and contractors as well as looking for other opportunities across the province of B.C.”

Larry Price, forest technologist and general manager for B.C. Interior operations for Interfor, was also on hand at the information meeting, and spoke to Interfor’s need for the cutting rights of Candor’s forest tenure associated with the Vavenby sawmill, which the company is trying to buy for $60 million.

Interfor’s Adams Lake sawmill, where the company would like to transport the local wood if the deal goes through, is having its own timber supply challenges and Interfor would like to use the resources to keep the operation afloat.

“For the last couple years that site has been operating at a less than a two-shift operation,” said Price.

“From our perspective, we understand the issues here locally and what that means, but unfortunately within the province of B.C., sawmill capacity has to get realigned with the timber capacity, that’s available.”

If the $60 million transfer of the forest tenure doesn’t go through, Interfor would have to keep reducing employees’ hours at the Adams Lake site and possibly go through curtailment or closure in the future as well, he said.

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