September 26, 2012
Sawmill destroyed in explosion moves closer to reconstruction
Hampton Affiliates, in partnership with the provincial government and local aboriginal groups, is one step closer to rebuilding a sawmill near Burns Lake, B.C., after the facility was destroyed by an explosion and fire earlier this year.
“We are excited about rebuilding the mill and what it will mean to the community, but the Hampton directors expect these critical agreements to be finalized in time for their Dec. 3 board meeting, so they can be assured that some of the risk in this decision has been reduced,” said Steve Zika, chief executive officer of Hampton Affiliates.
Portland, Oregon-based Hampton Affiliates is planning to rebuild the Babine Forest Products mill.
“We will continue to proceed with engineering, site preparation and equipment selection in preparation for construction of a new sawmill, while we quickly formalize critical timber supply and other operating agreements,” he said.
However, the board of directors still needs to approve the final decision.
According to Zika, the decision to proceed is also contingent on working out a timber supply agreement with the B.C. Government, the Burns Lake Community Forest Ltd. and local First Nations.
It is also necessary to negotiate an acceptable operating agreement with the United Steel Workers Union.
Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations wrote a letter to Zika dated Sept. 11, which commits the ministry to certain actions that would help ensure an adequate timber supply, if Hampton is able to formalize relationships.
The closing has impacted the community.
“The explosion and loss of two lives at Babine Forest Products was a huge tragedy to the employees, the families, and the community. A decision not to rebuild the mill would also be a huge tragedy,” said Chief Albert Gerow, president and chief executive officer of the Burns Lake Native Development Corporation (BLNDC).
“We look forward to strengthening our partnership with Hampton as we work to emerge with a long-term viable business that is vital to First Nations throughout the Lakes District.”
Two people were killed on Jan. 20 in the explosion and fire that completely destroyed the Babine Forest Products mill near Burns Lake, B.C.
The planer mill apparently survived the fire.
At the time of the incident, there were about 60 employees on the site, including 37 in the sawmill.
At least 19 employees required some medical care and the most serious cases were treated at area hospitals including Burns Lake, Smithers, Prince George, Vancouver and Edmonton.
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