UPM to reopen Blackville sawmill

UPM Miramichi will reopen its Blackville sawmill operation, Blackville Lumber on Monday, bringing back all 55 employees.

The mill, which makes random length lumber for housing framing, temporarily closed in December.

Paul Orser, UPM Miramichi’s woodlands manager, said the reasons are clear why the sawmill had to temporarily close.

“We’re in amongst the worst lumber market in 25 years. It’s very poor lumber pricing caused by housing starts in the United States being down.”

Also, continued lumber production in other parts of North America is saturating the market so the supply has remained high while the demand has plummeted.

“The price has basically collapsed,” Orser said.

The Blackville operation is one of many mills owned by the global forestry giant UPM Kymmene. Among those holdings is another sawmill in Bathurst. That mill also closed for a couple of weeks in December but Orser expects that operation will maintain production now too.

The poor state of the forestry industry has caused a lot of mills to shut down temporarily. That ripple effect has allowed the price to come up a bit but not significantly.

Many mills are having trouble coping with the poor forestry market.

For example, Weyerhaeuser in Miramichi is closing its operation indefinitely on Jan. 29. They also make building materials slated for a United States market. But, the higher Canadian dollar has left them with lower profits. Also, building starts in that country have dropped and Weyerhaeuser also has to account for product transportation costs.

One mill operation in Miramichi is maintaining stability on the forestry balance beam.

The Atcon Group Inc. opened a new plywood mill called Atcon Plywood Inc. in 2005.

It was built on the property in Nelson where the Nelson Forest Products mill was destroyed by fire in the summer of 2001.

“The plywood market is a very competitive one and we’re working on keeping our plywood mill sustainable – that’s where our focus is right now,” said Dorothy Innes, Atcon spokeswoman.

Innes said Atcon currently has no plans for any temporary shut downs.

“When we rebuilt we installed technology measures that allow the plywood mill to be competitive on a global scale. So we’re being competitive and holding our own,” Innes said.

Orser didn’t say if the Blackville mill’s resumed operation will continue.

“It’s completely market driven,” Orser said. “It’s not the best situation but we live in the market and we have to react to the market.”

Times & Transcript (Moncton) 2007

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