Western Forest Products curtails operations at Port Alberni sawmill

Western Forest Products shut its Port Alberni sawmill for at least six months in October.

Western Forest Products closed its Port Alberni sawmill for at least six months, putting more than 100 people out of work.

While 15 people remain working at the company’s planer mill, the sawmill shut down last month.

Glen Cheetham, business agent, United Steelworkers Union Local 1-1937, said the closure is putting more than 100 people out of work.

“There’s never a good time for these things, because people have bills to pay and with the cost of living the way it’s gone now, the price of fuel, and everything,” Cheetham said. “It’s very disheartening, and frustrating for these people.”

Western Forest Products operates six mills on Vancouver Island, but this is the only mill that is currently curtailed, with an opening to be determined sometime in the spring.

While the company didn’t respond to an on-camera interview, it cited market conditions and a lack of supply as reasons for the closure.

Years of boom resulted in growth for the lumber industry.

This is not the first curtailment on the Island.

Last month, Paper Excellence announced its paper mill operations at the Catalyst Crofton facility near Duncan are curtailed indefinitely, as of December which puts 150 people out of a job.

The company is blaming the closure on weak paper markets in China.

Experts say the Island’s industry will remain, but Cheetham said it’s changed since the heydays of the 90s.

“You had 400, 500, 600 people in all of these operations, it’s a shadow of what it was this industry in Port Alberni,” Cheetham said. “Plywoods are gone, Somass Mill went down, APD runs one shift when it is running, and the Franklin operation is maybe 150 people.”

The Port Alberni sawmill closure will continue for six months, unless market conditions change.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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