A northwestern British Columbia sawmill has shut down after only a few months of it’s reopening, due to a rapid decline in lumber demand.
The Kitwanga Sawmill near Hazelton reopened July 8 with optimism that the B.C. forest sector was rebounding from a steep downturn, but mill owner Pacific Bioenergy announced recently that they have temporary shut down because of market events that were completely unforeseen when they started up this summer. The mill’s 45 employees and staff have been laid off temporarily.
Lumber prices have tumbled from a high in the $300 US range for 1,000 board feet in early 2011 to $229 US, which is below break-even for all but a handful of B.C. mills.
“We started the mill in the early summer period. All the experts leading up to that period in time were predicting stronger market outlooks,” said Wayne Young, Pacific Bioenergy’s president. Young also said the company is looking into options such as custom cutting lumber to keep the mill running until prices improve for commodity lumber. Pacific Bioenergy also has plans to build a pellet plant at Kitwanga.