Timber deal reached to rebuild Burns Lake mill

The partners in the Burns Lake sawmill have accepted the conditions for rebuilding the mill

By Tom Fletcher, Black Press

VICTORIA – The partners in the Burns Lake sawmill destroyed in a fatal fire in January have accepted the conditions for rebuilding the mill.

To the community’s relief, the announcement comes despite last week’s decision by WorkSafeBC to refer their fire investigations at Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake and a later fire at Lakeland Mills in Prince George, to Crown counsel for possible charges. Two workers died and 42 others injured in the two fires, which WorkSafeBC concluded were caused by dust explosions.

“I’m very pleased with the decision,” said Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad, who joined officials in Burns Lake Tuesday for the announcement. He said it delivers on a promise made by Premier Christy Clark when she visited the community in the hours after disaster struck.

Steve Zika, CEO of Oregon-based Hampton Affiliates, and Albert Gerow, CEO of Burns Lake Native Development Corp., announced in September that they would rebuild if an agreement could be reached with the B.C. government to supply enough timber in the wake of the pine beetle epidemic.

Rustad chaired the committee that reviewed the timber supply and determined it could support existing mills in the region and a reconstructed Babine sawmill. It requires all six aboriginal communities in the region to commit timber rights to the new mill, including new area-based Crown forest tenures that the B.C. government has promised to award under legislation that still must be passed.

“I can imagine the other mills in the area would much rather have seen Hampton not rebuilt, because it means easier log access for them, and not as much competition,” Rustad said.

The deal also depended on re-inventory of areas affected by pine beetle, after the epidemic has run its course. He said inventory work in the Quesnel forest district, which was infested earlier, has shown a better survival rate of trees and stronger regrowth than expected.

Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson disputed that conclusion, saying Rustad is overstating the results from Quesnel. Simpson said the Quesnel forest is more productive than the northwest, and the optimistic projection depends on beetle-killed wood being harvested while live trees are left for later, which is not happening.

“It’s all a hyper-optimistic what-if exercise by some silviculture people,” Simpson said.

The government plans to table legislation in the new year to allow area-based forest licences to be direct awarded to aboriginal communities, and supplemental licences that allow greater access to waste wood for pellets and other biofuel.

 

The WorkSafeBC investigation found that the most likely fuel source for the two explosions was fine, dry dust, which increases when mills cut dry trees killed by beetles. The likely ignition source in both cases was motor and gear assemblies running waste conveyors in low, confined areas of the mills subject to heavy dust accumulation.

 

 

Just Posted

High winds could lead to dangerous snowmobiling conditions

Advice for staying safe on the mountains Family Day weekend

Clearwater Library hosting open house

Event takes place Feb. 15 from 2—4 p.m.

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

Road conditions for Feb. 15

Slippery sections on Highway 5

VIDEO: Historic night in Red Deer as 2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off

Star-studded Opening Ceremony features athletes from across Canada

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

B.C. couple attacked with acid, slashed with knife in Vietnam

Warning, graphic images: Man has burns on 80 per cent of his body, slashed with knife

Flying squirrels found to glow pink in the dark, including two from B.C.

Squirrels from Hope and Abbotsford were included in the biologists’ database

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

Names keep adding to vaccine petition started by B.C. mom

Maple Ridge mom started campaign to make vaccination a condition of attending school

Northern B.C. First Nation clan says ancient tools found at pipeline work site

Archeologists from the Smithsonian Institute estimate one of the stones found dates back up to 3500 years

Wilson-Raybould resignation stokes anger, frustration within veterans community

Liberals have had three veterans-affairs ministers — Kent Hehr, Seamus O’Regan and Wilson-Raybould

Most Read