The future of the Burns Lake mill
Sep 17, 2012 / 4:22 pm
A northern British Columbia sawmill that was flattened by a deadly explosion will be rebuilt with leading-edge safety measures, but deals must first be finalized to ensure a sufficient timber supply.
Mill owner Hampton Affiliates announced Monday it has decided to reinvest in the Burns Lake operation gutted by fire last January, even as its president called lumber availability "precarious" due to the region's pine beetle scourge.
Negotiations with the province and local First Nations are well underway to secure lumber for at least 20 years, said CEO Steve Zika.
"It's a solid yes, with a 'subject to' or contingency, as the lawyers like to say," Zika told reporters in the tiny community about 200 kilometres west of Prince George.
"We've heard about a lot of these (assurances), it's been very recent, they all sound good. We just need to see these agreements, get them in place."
The close-knit community of about 4,000 people lost one of its main employers and other economic spinoffs when a fireball ignited Jan. 20, blasting apart the mill while workers were on shift. Two men were killed and 19 others injured, including one person who still remains hospitalized.
"There has been a cloud of despair over the community of Burns Lake," said Al Gerow, chief of the Burns Lake Indian Band. "An announcement like this couldn't come at a better time."
Gerow said the new mill will be dedicated to blast victims Carl Charlie and Robert Luggie Jr.
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