Rumours about the former Louisiana Pacific Mill in Malakwa re-opening are true.
Citing economic reasons, Louisiana Pacific closed the sawmill in 2005, resulting in the layoff of 91 employees. The mill was last operational about four years ago under a different owner.
Since then, there have been a number of attempts get the mill going again. This time, however, Ray Hansen says it’s the real deal.
Hansen, who lives onsite at the mill, will be general manager for Elite Forest Products Ltd.’s Malakwa operation. He says the property was purchased in the spring by Lower Mainland investors who plan to have the mill up and running by mid to late spring.
“We are going to start readying the mill next month and bring in the mechanics and stuff,” said Hansen. “We figure it will take anywhere from one to two weeks.”
Hansen says the mill’s new owners have already invested about $100,000 in upgrades and improvements, in addition to securing their own timber licence.
“We did some upgrades last fall. We didn’t get them all finished, but we upgraded the electrical, we upgraded the chipping system and so, you know, they have spent a considerable amount of money,” said Hansen. “And the wood licence was of course, those are very expensive nowadays, we’re talking millions.”
Initially, Hansen says about 15 to 20 people will be hired, excluding management, with the intent of hiring locally. And while some key people are already lined up, he says there is still a need for operators, etc.
Hansen says the mill will be manufacturing hemlock, some from the company’s own logging and some purchased, locally, if possible.
Asked why the mill is reopening, Hansen says it has to do with the demand from Asian markets.
“Apparently, it’s going to China – they’re the big buyers now,” said Hansen.
The current plan is to get the mill operational and keep it going until freeze-up, says Hansen.
“That’s at least, if the markets are good and the things are going well and we’re able to ready the mill to run in the winter,” said Hansen. “Then we will run in the winter in a limited amount, but that’s only if things really improve from the first year.”
Though initial employment numbers may not be the same as in 2005, Hansen recognizes the important role the mill still can play in the local economy.
“This mill was really the backbone of the employment of this area for so many years,” said Hansen. “And then, when it shut down, boy, oh boy, it’s a rough road to hoe here employment wise…”
Anyone wishing to contact Hansen can do so by calling 250-836-3996.