Canfor reduces Prince George pulp mill operation due to a lack of wood fibre

By Winston Szeto

More than 200 people have been thrown out of work for the holiday season following Canfor’s immediate curtailment of its Intercontinental Pulp Mill in Prince George, B.C.

In a news release Monday, the Vancouver-based forestry company said it expects the pulp mill will reduce its pulp production for four weeks by about 24,000 tonnes due to a lack of wood fibre supply due to sawmill curtailments.

“The sawmill curtailments occurring in B.C. are materially reducing the residual fibre available for pulp mills,” said Canfor CEO and president Kevin Edgson.

“We regret the impact the downtime will have on our employees, their families, our suppliers and the community.”

The company says it currently owns and operates three pulp mills in Prince George and one in Taylor in northeastern B.C., which altogether hire about 1,300 people.

It isn’t the first time Canfor has slashed operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In May 2020, the company decided to close its Isle Pierre sawmill with 94 employees near Prince George and introduced curtailments at its Prince George Pulp and Paper and Intercontinental Pulp mills, citing the mountain pine beetle epidemic and economic instability.

Vancouver-based forestry industry analyst Russ Taylor says wood fibre supply will keep dwindling over the next few years due to the mountain pine beetle epidemic and forest fires across the Interior region in 2021.

Taylor adds that more sawmills will cut back their production amid decreased supply of wood and reduced market demand for wood fibre.

“With weak markets to take fibre supply, mills are conserving their logs for better times ahead, which I’m … sure they [will] get better, but not a lot better going forward,” he told CBC’s Daybreak North.

Canfor says it will continue to closely monitor the wood fibre supply and will adjust its operations accordingly.