British Columbia Polar Sawmill Announces Permanent Closure

Industry News,

Originally Published by: HBS Dealer — May 10, 2024
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Vancouver, B.C.-based Canfor said that after thorough analysis of the persistent shortage of economically available timber and challenging operating conditions in northern British Columbia, the company announced the permanent closure of its Polar sawmill in Bear Lake, BC. 

An undated photo of a forest fire in British Columbia.

It also announced suspension of its planned reinvestment in Houston, BC. 

The moves follow the announcement by its subsidiary company, Canfor Pulp, that one line of production will be indefinitely curtailed at the Northwood Pulp Mill.

The Polar sawmill, with a production capacity of about 300 million board feet annually, has been curtailed since January 2024. The permanent closure will impact approximately 180 employees.

CEO Don Kayne issued the following statement:

“The ability to reliably access enough economic timber to run our manufacturing facilities is critical for our business. Unfortunately, while our province has a sufficient supply of timber available for harvest as confirmed by the Allowable Annual Cut set by BC’s Chief Forester, the actual harvest level has declined dramatically in recent years. In 2023 the actual harvest was 42 percent lower than the allowable cut, a level not seen since the 1960s.

”While this decline is partly the result of natural disturbances—beetle infestations and wildfire particularly—it is also the result of the cumulative impact of policy changes and increased regulatory complexity. These choices and changes have hampered our ability to consistently access enough economic fibre to support our manufacturing facilities and forced the closure or curtailment of many forest sector operations, including our Polar sawmill.

“With the policy and regulatory landscape in BC continuing to shift, it’s difficult to predict the operating conditions that we will face going forward. As such, we have made the difficult decision to suspend our plan to build a new state-of-the-art sawmill in Houston, as we are not confident that an investment of this magnitude can be successful at this time.”