End of an era for mill

By Rebecca Billard – Burns Lake Lakes District News
Photo by Carrier Lumber

Cheslatta Forest Products Ltd. has officially wound up operations.

The mill, which started full time production in 2001, has been shut down for an extended period of time.

Sawmill operations wound up in October 2008. It was then thought to be a temporary shut down, but the sawmill has remained closed ever since, although the planer mill operated sporadically during 2009 and 2010.

As reported in the March 23, 2011, edition of the Lakes District News Carrier Lumber president Bill Kordyban said the planer was up and running to process the mill’s remaining inventory.

The mill’s official closure was announced late last week when the three equal owners, Nootsenay Enterprises owned by Cheslatta Carrier Nation, Ootsa Resources, comprising of local community investors and Carrier Forest Products, issued a joint statement to Lakes District News.

“After a prolonged shut down period, the parties have agreed to wind down the Cheslatta joint venture sawmill and planer mill. Nootsenay Enterprises is currently negotiating with other investors to re-establish an industrial presence on the property, located on the shores of
Ootsa Lake . The new operation is also anticipated to be forestry based.”

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief Richard Peters said, “It is sad to see the end of Cheslatta Forest Products Ltd. but the mill has lived its term and it is time to move on. We have enjoyed working with our community and look forward to other ventures that may bring employment and opportunities to our community.”

During its operational period, the mill provided employment for 140 people in harvesting, milling, administration and trucking and contributed nearly $1.5 million per month in contracts, payroll and operations to the regional economy.

The statement attributed the mill’s closure to a number of contributing factors including; a lack of modern three phase power, skyrocketing fuel prices beginning in 2008, the impending expiration of the mill’s non renewable beehive burning permit and diminishing recovery of lumber from beetle killed logs.

According to the joint statement, “The recovery of lumber from beetle killed logs was diminishing so fast that it was no longer economical to harvest without an outlet for the massive amount of waste that was created. The trees have degraded so badly that you cannot economically produce lumber. It is also not viable to process fibre or waste for biomass pellets and transport it to Burns Lake. Aside from long distances, we also have the ferry as a limiting factor.”

Cheslatta Carrier Nation is retaining the Ootsa Lake mill site and are working with new partners in establishing new forestry based facilities.

They are confident about a future enterprise, but say that large scale saw milling as a primary industry on the Southside is something for the history books.

Meanwhile, it is full steam ahead for a newly owned Carrier Lumber Mill near Big River, Saskatchewan.

The company say they expect to have the recently acquired mill in full operation by 2012.

Carrier Lumber purchased of the idled Big River sawmill which was previously owned by EACOM Timber corporation, based in Quebec.

The Big River mill had been shut down since 2006, however via a press release issued by the government of Saskatchewan, Carrier Lumber president Bill Kordyban said, “Carrier is excited about re-establishing the mill complex near Big River. The Saskatchewan forest industry has a bright future ahead, and Carrier looks forward to being an integral part of it.”

Saskatchewan premier
Brad Wall said, “The new sawmill and planer mill development is the latest example of the resurgence Saskatchewan has seen in its forest industry. Carrier Lumber is one of the most respected and well established companies in Saskatchewan’s forest industry. We’re delighted that it is bringing a sawmill operation back to Big River and providing jobs and economic opportunities to the community once again.”

The Big River operation will employ up to 110 people directly when running at full capacity and according to Kordyban will create many more jobs in harvesting, hauling and reforestation.

The official start up of the Big River mill is expected to coincide with the re opening of the Paper Excellence owned

Prince Albert Pulp Mill in 2012. The mill will be a major supplier of wood chip feedstock for the Prince Albert mill once it reopens.

The province of Saskatchewan announced the news that Paper Excellence is working on an accelerated restart program for the Prince Albert pulp mill, with a target time line of 12 months so that the mill is operational by the second quarter of 2012.

According to Forest Talk.com, EACOM Timber originally purchased the Big River mill from Domtar early in 2010, but the mill was never in operation by EACOM, due to a  lack of adequate timber rights to operate the facility.

ForestTalk.com report that EACOM is now suing the province of Saskatchewan, claiming they improperly denied the company a wood supply sufficient to operate the mill.

Kordyban said that the re-opening of the Prince Albert pulp mill makes re-opening the Big River sawmill a more attractive venture. He also says Carrier Lumber have adequate timber rights to operate the Big River sawmill. Lakes District News contacted Wes Bohmer, president of Ootsa Resources for comment, but he was not available as of press time.

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