West Fraser is announcing additional production reductions and downtime in response to COVID-19. (Quesnel Cariboo Observer file photo)

COVID-19: Four weeks of downtime coming for Cariboo Pulp and Paper mill employees

West Fraser announces additional temporary production reductions in response to COVID-19

West Fraser is taking further measures to adjust production in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including four weeks of downtime at the Cariboo Pulp and Paper mill.

West Fraser provided an update on production adjustments implemented to address changing operating, supply chain and market conditions due to COVID-19 on April 3.

West Fraser previously announced temporary reductions in lumber production at its western Canadian sawmills and a temporary suspension of plywood production in Quesnel on March 19.

The company says that as a result of the continuing proliferation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the imposition of mandatory and recommended governmental restrictions on movement, travel, work and trade that are impacting its operations and employees, the demand for forest products and the availability of residuals and other inputs and transportation services, additional changes to operating schedules at West Fraser’s manufacturing operations are being implemented this month.

“These operating schedules will be assessed and adjusted as may be required to further respond to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to protect the health and safety of our employees and continuing changes in mill operating, supply chain and market conditions,” states the update.

Effective April 6, West Fraser will further reduce its spruce, pine, fir (SPF) production by 30 to 40 million board feet of production per week, which represents between 45 and 60 per cent of SPF production. Southern yellow pine (SYP) production will continue in line with the reductions previously announced on March 19.

West Fraser plans to continue to operate its power generation assets at its Canadian sawmill sites during this period.

As of Monday, April 6, plywood production at the company’s three manufacturing sites will be further adjusted on an ongoing basis, according to the update.

“It is expected that curtailments of at least 5,000 msf [thousand square feet] of plywood production will continue,” it states. “MDF [medium-density fibreboard] and LVL [laminated veneer lumber] production may also be reduced, primarily through the reduction of operating hours.”

Effective Monday, April 20, West Fraser will take approximately four weeks of downtime at its Cariboo Pulp and Paper joint venture pulp mill, resulting in an approximate reduction in northern bleached softwood kraft (NBSK) production of 30,000 tonnes, of which West Fraser’s share is 15,000 tonnes.

“The downtime is necessitated by decreased fibre availability as a result of widespread sawmill curtailments in British Columbia and the other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mill operations and employees,” according to West Fraser’s update. “During this downtime, the cogeneration facility at Cariboo is expected to continue to operate.”

READ MORE: COVID-19: West Fraser temporarily suspending plywood production in Quesnel as demand for forest products declines


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