Paper mill in Powell River faces curtailment

Expectations are a duration until mid-summer

Paper Excellence has announced that Powell River’s mill will be curtailed until mid-summer.

“Current global conditions and recent events impacting Paper Excellence require us to extend the curtailment of paper operations at Powell River and Crofton,” stated vice-president of communications Graham Kissack in a media release on April 16. “Over the past six months, an exceptional intersection of events has negatively impacted our operations including: a material shortage of economic forest fibre on BC’s coast; a significant external malware attack which rendered our paper business enterprise systems inoperable for a period of time, and from which we continue to recover as we work to restore all affected operations; and COVID-19, which has materially impacted the supply chain for many of the paper products that we manufacture.”

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In an interview with the Peak, UNIFOR Local 76 president Warren Welde said it is a tough situation when talking about the potential of a three-month curtailment.

“It’s going to be tough on everybody involved and tough on this community because there’s not a whole lot of money coming in,” said Welde. “What is available to our members is the [Canada Emergency Response Benefit] because this is COVID-19 related, as everything is right now. It’s going to be hard on this community but I think we’ll get by.”

Kissack stated that Paper Excellence will service its core paper customer base from its Port Alberni operation during the curtailment period, along with intermittent manufacturing runs at the Crofton facility as opportunities permit.

“All production activity will take place under enhanced health and safety protocols aimed at ensuring the health of our employees and communities, and addressing the COVID-19 challenge,” stated Kissack. “The entire situation is expected to continue to be highly fluid and the timeline may be modified in the coming months. We are hopeful that decisions of municipal, provincial and federal governments with respect to mitigation measures offered to help maintain business during the COVID-19 upheaval will provide immediate needed relief for our industry.”

Welde said the union will maintain contact with the company and hope for the best.

“Hopefully, at some point, things lift and we’ll be able to get some orders and maybe start sooner than what they project,” he added.

The Paper Excellence release concluded by stating that the company continues to believe BC can be a leader in the pulp and paper industry and remains committed to its long-term investment in the province.

“These continue to be unprecedented times and we will continue to engage with governments as we seek to chart a path forward for our affected employees and communities hit the hardest by these events,” stated Kissack.

Welde said the curtailment does not take effect immediately. He said the mill is going to fulfill its orders on the paper machines and will run the steam plant until May 1.

“This is one of those things where it is uncharted territory with the COVID-19 and we’re not the only ones,” said Welde. “It’s a worldwide-phenomena right now, with a lot of businesses down and people out of work.”

Copyright © Powell River Peak

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