West Fraser Timber will close its Houston, British Columbia sawmill in 2014 in an attempt to deal with the effect of the mountain pine beetle epidemic, the company announced today.
Canfor will also close its Quesnel sawmill, affecting 209 employees, and the two companies plan to swap timber tenures.
"The timber availability in the Quesnel region following the mountain pine beetle infestation unfortunately leaves us unable to continue operation of our Quesnel sawmill," said Don Kayne, Canfor's president and CEO. "The additional fibre we have been able to secure in the exchange agreement with West Fraser enhances the fibre requirements for our Houston facility."
West Fraser's Houston mill closure is part of the company's comprehensive mountain pine beetle plan, and will affect 225 workers in the northeastern B.C. community.
West Fraser plans to exchange part of its existing timber harvesting tenure in the Morice timber supply area, where Houston is located, with tenure currently held by Canfor in the Quesnel and Lakes areas.
West Fraser said the timber exchange would provide a boost to its modernized Quesnel mill, which employs 400 people.
"The mountain pine beetle devastation has and will continue to undermine the availability of merchantable timber in the interior of B.C.," West Fraser CEO Ted Seraphim said in a statement.
"The shutdown of our Houston mill has been a difficult decision and we will work closely with the affected employees to support them through this process. Our first priority is to explore opportunities to transition Houston employees to one of our other operations and we will provide assistance in finding new employment."
The company will continue to develop two bioenergy plants to increase profitability at its Fraser Lake and Chetwynd sawmills.
West Fraser is one of B.C.'s largest forestry companies, and owns sawmills, pulp mills and timber harvesting rights in B.C., Alberta and the southern United States.