The province has approved the transfer of Conifex’s forest licence to Hampton.
In an Oct. 28 news release, Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said he approved the transfer as it is best in terms of public interest and released the following statement in regard to the transfer of the forest license:
“On Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, I approved the transfer of a forest licence and associated road permits from Conifex Timber Inc. to Fort St. James Forest Products, a subsidiary of Hampton Lumber Mills. After a comprehensive review of this public asset, I determined that this transfer is in the public interest and will benefit British Columbians.”
As a condition of the transfer, Hampton has committed to building a new sawmill in Fort St. James, Donaldson added, noting the sawmill will be operational within 36 months of the closing transaction with Conifex.
“It is my expectation that Hampton will continue to work closely with First Nations to develop business and capacity-building arrangements and hire local workers. In addition, it must meet with the United Steelworkers’ local, and continue discussions with Fort St. James Green Energy and local logging contractors,” Donaldson said.
This approval came as a result of changes made to Bill 22, Donaldson said.
Bill 22 was introduced in 2019 at the legislative session in spring, and this bill requires forestry companies to obtain approval from the forestry minister before transferring tenure agreements to another party.
There was a lot of debate in regard to this legislation with forest companies skeptical of government involvement in tenure.
The approval of Conifex’s sale to Hampton is the first approval of tenure transfer under the recent legislative amendments due to Bill 22, Donaldson said.
Mayor Bev Playfair of Fort St. James said the news is great for the municipality.
“We had people sitting on the fence about whether they could live in this town unemployed or whether they would have to go find other employment. This news definitely helps,” she said.
Fort St. James still has needs and there are unemployed people, Playfair said, noting federal funding is needed to create job opportunities and programs. She added that the federal government also needs to extend EI for the unemployed.