A picture of logs

Conifex will halt its sawmill operations in Mackenzie for four weeks starting on June 5, citing a decreased water level forecast for the reservoir the company uses to draw resources, Conifex announced Wednesday.

An emptier reservoir, combined with recessionary conditions and a fall in demand for lumber prompted the curtailment of the sawmill.

“Conifex intends to utilize the production downtime to complete critical maintenance activities at its sawmill,” the company said in a statement. “Conifex expects to resume normal lumber production operations in July 2023, but will closely monitor market conditions and adjust production plans accordingly.”

The company, whose lumber products are also sold in the U.S. and Japanese markets, said the “downtime” will cut production capacity by approximately 16 million board feet.

“We regret the impact this may have on our employees, their families, and the community,” said Ken Shields, Chairman and CEO of Conifex.

Communities were inundated with a cascade of updates in January, when Canfor announced it will shutter its pulp paper line in Prince George in March, citing a lack of fibre for their decision. Nearly 10 days later, it declared the closure of its sawmill and pellet plant in Chetwynd.

In the same month, Sinclar Group Forest Products Ltd. also announced it will curtail its lumber operations in Prince George, Fort St. James and Vanderhoof for two weeks from Jan. 30.

In February, West Fraser announced the curtailment of its operations at its pulp and paper mill in Quesnel beginning in mid-April for a month and then for a similar period in the third quarter.

In May, Sinclar announced a fresh round of curtailments at their three local facilities including Apollo Forest Products in Fort St. James, Lakeland Mills in Prince George, and Nechako Lumber Co. in Vanderhoof over the next three months.

The problems isn’t new. In fact, the ballooning crisis has cost forestry companies across the province 100 sawmills in the past two decades.

Nearly all mills have been blaming a lack of timber for the shutdowns. But experts say corporate consolidation, the granting of logging rights in areas without a requirement of providing employment to their communities, and an inadequate focus on ecological concerns have caused the problem to snowball into a crisis.

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