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Curtailed Port Alberni sawmill will not reopen as is; owner announces working group

The Western Forest Products Inc.logo is shown in this undated handout. (The Canadian Press) The Western Forest Products Inc.logo is shown in this undated handout. (The Canadian Press)
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A Vancouver Island sawmill where work has been curtailed since last October will not be reopening in its current configuration, its owner announced Thursday.

Western Forest Products Inc. said in a statement that it will not restart its Alberni-Pacific Division facility in Port Alberni as currently set up. Instead, the company "has established a multi-party working group to explore potential viable industrial manufacturing solutions for the facility."

A report commissioned last year by WFP, Tsawak-qin Forestry Limited Partnership and Huu-ay-aht First Nations found that manufacturing options for the facility are "very limited," the company said.

The new working group includes representatives from WFP, the United Steelworkers union, "Indigenous partners and contractually aligned business," the company said, adding that it will meet over the course of 90 days to explore options for the site.

“We believe the coastal forest sector has a strong future and we have and plan to continue to invest in partnerships, people and facilities to achieve a long-term sustainable business model in B.C. that evolves with the changing fibre supply, forest policies and global markets,” said WFP CEO Steven Hofer in the statement.

“We are committed to exploring options with partners to advance potential solutions for the APD facility and appreciate the support of the working group members who have stepped up and joined us in this important work.”

Approximately 90 employees were affected by the curtailment of the Alberni-Pacific Division. 

Thursday's announcement is the latest in a flurry of updates on the province's forestry industry that have been made at the start of this year.

Last week, Premier David Eby announced both the creation of a new, $90-million fund for innovation in rural communities and a $50-million upgrade project at the Paper Excellence mill in Crofton, B.C., which will be funded in part by the federal government. 

Mill closures and curtailments have also been announced, including at Canfor facilities in Chetwynd and Houston, B.C.  

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