After a decade reviving the Mackenzie B.C. pulp mill with new investment, Paper Excellence is closing it permanently and putting its investment focus on other B.C. operations with better economic prospects.
The company is making a $13 million capital investment in its Port Alberni mill to produce higher-value paper products, and is “working towards making a significant capital investment in its Crofton facility,” Paper Excellence said in a statement April 15. It is also restarting one of two paper machines at its Powell River mill in early May.
Mackenzie, a small community north of Prince George, has seen a collapse of its forest industry as the Interior pine beetle epidemic wound down and the three sawmills that historically provided wood waste to the pulp mill also went down.
“Since acquiring the Mackenzie mill in 2010, Paper Excellence has invested more than $360 million in the facility,” the company said. “However, despite these investments and the committed team of employees in Mackenzie, the facility’s small production capacity and the ongoing lack of local economic fibre meant the mill could not be globally competitive.”
The company said it is offering to relocate its Mackenzie employees to other facilities. It plans to restart its mill in Prince Albert, Sask., and pay severance under its union contract with UNIFOR local 1092. The Mackenzie operation was originally curtailed in June 2020 due to market demand reduction from COVID-19 and the lack of local fibre supply, with a small crew assigned to care and maintenance.
Paper Excellence has extensive holdings in Canada and Brazil, where it grows and processes eucalyptus pulp. Its B.C. operations include a distribution centre in Surrey and mills at Skookumchuck in the East Kootenay as well as Port Alberni, Crofton, Powell River and Howe Sound, which has operated since 1909.
The company endorses the B.C. government’s plan to shake up the forest licence structure in B.C.
“Paper Excellence looks forward to the B.C. government’s continued focus on competitive mid-term timber supply and modernization of forest policy, while ensuring equitable distribution of access to forest tenures to support the diversity and competitiveness of the sector and the production of high-value products.”
The company’s pulp is used in products from household tissue to office supplies and fibre cement, with sales in 45 countries around the world.