Meadow Creek Forest Products says its Lardeau Valley sawmill and operations are running at a “proficient level” and that problems encountered during start-up have been resolved.
The Star received two emails last month, one from an area resident and another from a former mill employee, expressing concerns about the operation.
Inder Johal, an executive with parent company San Group of Surrey, which reached a deal to acquire the mill and its forest license in May, responded to each allegation.
Asked whether a logging contractor has quit, Johal replied “We fired him due to log quality issues and issues with his attitude towards our forestry department.”
He acknowledged a saw filer has left, but said it was due to personal reasons: “We hope the best for him. He was a great asset to our team.” He said two new filers have been hired, one who started working last week and another this week.
As for suggestions paydays have been missed, Johal said cheques have never bounced, but when they changed their payroll system to direct deposit, some employees did not confirm account information in time for their money to be deposited the same day. He said the issue has since been resolved and all payments are now up to date.
He also denied rumors that former Meadow Creek Cedar owner Dale Kooner is part of San Group or has a 25 per cent ownership in the mill.
“At the moment our mill and operations are running at a proficient level — reflected in the time and effort we have put in at upgrading the mill,” he said. “And on a very positive note, our progress in cleaning up the forest license has exponentially progressed since the acquisition.”
Upon acquiring the company, San Group paid off $150,000 in liabilities incurred under Kooner, including fines for failing to meet reforestation requirements. According to the Ministry of Forests, it has “substantially met” a remediation order.
As a result, a cancellation notice on the license was rescinded and a suspension order imposed in 2012 was lifted. The sawmill at Cooper Creek, acquired with the license, restarted in June following a three-year closure.
The ministry said last week it does not have an active role in any of the issues recently raised, but noted the final legal transfer of the license has not yet been concluded.
San Group was founded in 1980 by brothers Kamal and Sukhi Sanghera and according to its website, has grown from a small lumber remanufacturing facility to a “multi-level forest products company.”