Hampton Affiliates and the Burns Lake Native Development Corporation (BLNDC) recently announced that they intend to rebuild the Babine sawmill that was destroyed by fire on January 20th, 2012. Steve Zika, CEO of Hampton Affiliates, commented, “There is no way to reverse the terrible tragedy that occurred on that fateful night that killed two of our workers and forever altered the lives of many in Burns Lake. However, we hope this good news will allow our employees and the community to focus on a positive effort to restore economic vitality to Burns Lake.
The decision by the Hampton family and Board of Directors was not an easy one due to the precarious timber supply situation brought about by the pine beetle that has ravaged forests throughout British Columbia. However, they felt comfortable moving forward with the rebuild based on preliminary negotiations with the Ministry of Forests and the solid support of all six First Nations bands of the BLNDC who have pledged to commit timber supply to the new Babine sawmill,” said Zika.
Chief Albert Gerow, who is President and CEO of the BLNDC and attended the recent Hampton Board meeting, said, “The explosion and loss of two lives at Babine Forest Products was a huge tragedy to the employees, the families, and the community. A decision not to rebuild the mill would also be a huge tragedy.” Chief Gerow added, “We look forward to strengthening our partnership with Hampton as we work to emerge with a long-term viable business that is vital to First Nations throughout the Lakes District.”
Zika cautioned that the decision to proceed was contingent on working out satisfactory timber supply agreements with the B.C. Government, the Burns Lake Community Forest and the First Nations; as well as negotiating an acceptable operating agreement with the United Steel Workers Union. Zika added, “We are excited about rebuilding the mill and what it will mean to the community, but the Hampton Directors expect these critical agreements to be finalized in time for their December 3rd Board meeting so they can be assured that some of the risk in this decision has been reduced.”