The Vaagen Fibre Canada mill in Midway, B.C. has been shut down indefinitely, citing trouble sourcing wood fibre at market prices.
In a message posted Friday from the Vaagen family, they said 85 employees and nearly 100 contractors, vendors and suppliers were told the news Thursday.
"Our workers, their families, suppliers, and contractors will be impacted, not to mention the countless businesses our employees support like local restaurants, stores, and other general services in the rural communities in the local area," the family wrote.
"Although the news we are sharing is not good news, we are steadfastly committed to continue to look for solutions for every possible way forward."
Vaagen Fibre Canada is a small, family-run mill with many partnerships throughout the Boundary and Kootenay regions and in the South Okanagan. Notably, it has close ties with the Osoyoos Indian Band through summer student programs, and a partnership with the Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre.
The mill is non-tenured, meaning it does not have a licence to manage Crown forests, instead purchasing logs from private landowners and woodlot owners.
"Although our team has been creative for years in finding logs to run our mill, there are a few challenges that have compounded for us, and without resolution, the future of our operation is uncertain. This is an access to wood fibre at market price issue," the family wrote.
The Vaagens are not ready to give up. While the closure is indefinite, they are hoping for help lobbying the provincial government to make policy changes.
"We have also been working with local MLA Roly Russell to set up a meeting with the former Minister of Forests, Katrine Conroy, and with the recent changes in cabinet, now the new Minister of Forests Bruce Ralston. The goal of this meeting is to review the solutions we believe could keep the mill viable for years to come," the family wrote.
"We all want to keep moving forward, providing those social, environmental, and economic benefits to our region and to the families who rely on us."
This is not the first time the mill has faced closure. In 2008, Pope &Talbot Inc. owned it, and decided to close it and leave the community.
"Back then, the people of the area rallied to save the mill. This is where you come in," the family wrote, urging people to send letters to MLA Roly Russell in support of the mill.
"Let him know how important the mill is to our communities and ask him to bring the voice of the people forward to the Minister of Forests to find solutions to help Vaagen Fibre Canada reopen."
The Vaagen family included a form letter to Russell at the bottom of their message, to make participation easier.