Times Colonist (Victoria)




Weyerhaeuser to mothball two more Saskatchewan mills

REGINA (CP) -- Two small Saskatchewan communities were struggling yesterday with news that Weyerhaeuser (NYSE:WY) plans to mothball two more mills in the province.

Indefinite layoff notices effective Jan. 3 went out Monday to about 300 workers in Hudson Bay and Carrot River.

At the Carrot River mill, which produces softwood lumber studs, 116 workers were given notice, while 183 employees at the Hudson Bay facility, which produces softwood plywood, were told they would be out of a job in the new year.

"It's quite a shock," said Scott Brownlee, a Carrot River town councillor. "Everybody relies on that mill for our economy as a whole. It affects everybody, so there are a lot of very disappointed people."

It's the latest in a long list of body blows dealt to the Saskatchewan forestry sector.

Earlier this year, Weyerhaeuser closed its pulp and paper mill in Prince Albert, putting about 700 people out of work.

Two more Saskatchewan mills that relied on sales to Prince Albert of chips and other wood residue from their operations were also forced to close. That put another 300 people out of work.

Hudson Bay Mayor Elvina Rumak said her community is concerned that an oriented-strandboard mill Weyerhaeuser is still operating there could be next.

"I just feel sorry for everybody that is associated with the wood industry in all of Saskatchewan," Rumak said. "It's a bleak scene throughout the whole province."

The government called the shutdowns concerning.

"The news is distressing," Eldon Lautermilch, minister in charge of Saskatchewan's forestry secretariat, said in a news release.

"We are disappointed the company was not more creative in exploring options to keep the Carrot River and Hudson Bay mills operational."

Weyerhaeuser was careful to point out that the shutdown of the Carrot River and Hudson Bay operations had to do with balancing production with orders, and there was nothing employees could have done.

Saskatchewan isn't the only province to experience job losses this week because of troubles in the lumber industry.

Montreal-based Tembec Inc. (TSX:TBC) announced yesterday it is temporarily shutting down three sawmills in Quebec for an indefinite period. More than 435 employees will be affected by those shutdowns