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Shift idled at Williams Lake mill as rough run continues for B.C. forestry

Tolko’s Lakeview mill drops to one 50-hour shift per week, affecting 60 workers, fibre supply cited
A truck loaded with logs travels down Highway 20 past the Tolko Industries Ltd. Lakeview Division log yard during the second week in March 2023. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Tolko Industries will be temporarily laying off 60 workers at its Lakeview mill in Williams Lake beginning Feb. 19, in a third significant setback for the B.C. forest industry in recent weeks.

Media spokesperson Chris Downey said the mill will be reducing its shifts from two down to one 50-hour shift per week, citing high costs of operations in B.C. and challenging economic conditions.

“We are hoping it’s temporary,” he said.

The company also operates another mill in Williams Lake, its Soda Creek division.

Williams Lake Coun. Sheila Boehm, who is also president of the North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA), pointed to this on top of the recent West Fraser announcement that it will be closing its mill in Fraser Lake as cause for concern.

“I have reached out and talked to the mayor to see if the NCLGA can do anything,” she said.

The Fraser Lake closure — which is permanent — was announced Jan. 22 and affects 175 employees.

“Today’s decision is the result of West Fraser’s inability to access economically viable fibre in the region,” said company president and CEO Sean McLaren.

Meanwhile, on Vancouver Island, Paper Excellence Canada announced the indefinite curtailment of paper operations at its Catalyst Crofton mill Jan. 25.

The company cited market dynamics, inflationary pressures on raw materials, energy cost opportunities and, again, a lack of local domestic fibre supply. It says those pressures have materially impacted the current and future financial viability of the paper operation.

That decision affects about 75 employees who are members of Unifor Local 1132.

Williams Lake Coun. Scott Nelson said ” bells and whistles are going off across the province,” adding B.C. is one of the most expensive provinces to access fibre.

Mayor Surinderpal Rathor said the mayor’s office has been contacted by Tolko, West Fraser and Atlantic Power to appear as delegations at city hall.

—with files from Frank Peebles and Don Bodger

READ MORE: Fraser Lake losing sawmill as West Fraser Timber cuts 175 jobs

READ MORE: Paper Excellence announces indefinite curtailment of Crofton paper operations

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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