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Slocan sawmill faces indefinite closure

Employees at the Springer Creek mill in Slocan will be getting another unwanted and potentially lengthy break. - Greg Nesteroff photo
Employees at the Springer Creek mill in Slocan will be getting another unwanted and potentially lengthy break.
— image credit: Greg Nesteroff photo

Springer Creek Forest Products in Slocan is facing another extended shutdown due to slumping markets.

General manager Ralph Tomlin says the mill will be idled indefinitely within the next few weeks.

“It’s temporary, but we don’t have a firm date for starting up again,” he says. “It’s a combination of things, but essentially lumber prices, exchange rates, and transportation costs.”

The mill restarted last June following a closure of 14 months. Tomlin says he’s hopeful the latest stoppage will be shorter. “There’s no way of knowing, but I don’t think it will be that long.”

He says another key factor is their wood waste market has dried up.

“That’s a fairly crucial piece of the puzzle. We were selling our hog fuel, which is essentially sawdust and bark, down to Avista Power Corp. in Kettle Falls, Washington. They simply don’t need it anymore,” Tomlin says.

Zellstoff Celgar in Castlegar can’t take it either, so the mill has no outlet for it.

“That was a pretty big blow, because it means we’ve had to start our burner again, which we hadn’t run in over three years,” he adds.

Springer Creek has about 2,000 m of wood in inventory and plans to keep it low until the mill is ready to start up again. Tomlin says minimal logging is underway now, although it will increase following spring break-up.

The mill normally employs about 65 people, but is down to about 30 for the next two to three weeks, and then will scale back further.

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