The Gustafsen wildfire aftermath in August 2017. File photo.

The Gustafsen wildfire aftermath in August 2017. File photo.

100 Mile OSB Mill to temporarily suspend operations due to a lack of wood

Norbord says wildfires and winter conditions to blame

The Norbord oriented strand board (OSB) mill in 100 Mile House will suspend production temporarily due to a wood shortage. The suspension is expected to commence on about May 14 and to last for about one month.

The 2017 wildfires damaged logging areas; and the severe winter weather conditions this winter have limited loggers’ ability to access the forests during the months when the mill typically build annual inventory, according to a release by Norbord.

“Combined, these extraordinary circumstances have impacted Norbord’s ability to secure a sufficient wood supply to operate the mill on a continuous basis during this one-month period.”

During the suspension, Norbord will continue to supply its customers with OSB from its other mills and 100 Mile will continue to receive log deliveries during this period.

“The company currently estimates that the curtailment will negatively impact its second quarter 2018 financial results by approximately US$5 million.”

The 100 Mile House mill has a stated annual production capacity of 440 million square feet (3/8-inch basis), according to the release.

UPDATE 3:20 p.m.: Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett asked in the legislature for permits to log the wood around the mill. She also said long-term stability with a commitment from the Ministry of Forests.

Without long-term timber supply, getting logging contractors is problematic as they require stability as well, she said.

Minister Doug Donaldson said he shared the concerns and that he would take Barnett up on her offer to provide assistance, acknowledging that 160 direct jobs would be affected as well as other associated jobs.

“It’s going to be a very, very difficult situation. So my sympathies go out to the workers at this point.”

According to Donaldson Norbord is looking at the redeployment of some of the workers.

Barnett reiterated that the biggest issue is long-term tenure.

“Short-term tenure, after what we’ve just been through in the fire season, will not work anymore.”

Donaldson added that in addition to the 160 direct jobs, there are 113 contracted jobs and an additional 368 indirect and induced jobs according to Norbord’s own numbers.

Speaking afterwards, Barnett said it’s a situation they hoped never to get into.

She said some logging contractors had to leave and some got better tenures during and after the fires.

The fibre Norbord uses is different from what the other mills use, says Barnett, adding they don’t use sawlogs. They are the largest consumer of deciduous timber and low-quality, non-sawlog-grade conifer logs in the Cariboo, according to Barnett.

“We do know that there’s two years of burned wood out there. So let’s get a good two year burned wood licence and then let work to move forward to have a licence on other fibre that is available.”

Barnett says she’s concerned about the whole forest industry but says that she knows Williams Lake is in a good position with lots of fibre in their mills for spring breakup with permits in place for the future. West Fraser in 100 Mile House is also in a better position than Norbord, she says, adding that she doesn’t know how good that position is.

“I do know that Chasm at 59 Mile is very very very short of fibre.”

“Hopefully this will be very short term, if they have to close for any length of time.”