Darryl Bens is still recovering the injuries he suffered from an explosion at Babine Forest Products on the evening of Jan. 20.
"I'm almost at the end of the recovery, it's going well," he said after learning Hampton Associates intends to rebuild the mill as long as certain timber supply conditions are met.
Bens is thrilled the mill is likely going to be rebuilt but he constantly still thinks about the explosion, which killed two of his co-workers. However just as the physical pain is lessening, time does appear to be healing some of the psychological wounds as well.
"Everyday I'm reminded of it," he said. "I try not to focus on it too much, I don't let it ruin my day anymore."
Gordie Alec was also there the night of the explosion and said he and his colleagues will never forget what happened.
"It never leaves our heads, it's always within us. I guess we'll play it back for the rest of our lives," he said. "But with the man upstairs willing, we'll have it put away with all this positive stuff that's coming our way."
That positive news came courtesy of Hampton CEO Steve Zika on Monday. He said that as long as there is enough timber available to operate the mill for at least 15 years, construction of a new facility could start as soon as this winter and be operational by the end of 2014.
"I'm overjoyed to hear that they're going to rebuild," Bens said. "It will just be nice when they make the official announcement in December and all this stuff will be over with."
Dozens of workers from the mill were on hand for the announcement. The good news that the mill is likely coming back, was tempered with the reality modernization will mean fewer jobs at the new plant.
"I figured it would be a smaller mill due to modern-day technology," Bens said. "Maybe it will make it more efficient, that's what Hampton always wanted."
Burns Lake mayor Luke Strimbold said the news is great for his community, especially since local groups are expected to play a role in determining how the new timber licenses will proceed.
"It shows the importance of the local folks, the First Nations, the local government, as well as the province and the industry," he said. "It's now in our hands to move things forward. We'll be part of the decision-making process, and I think that's exciting."
Zika expects to begin talks with the United Steelworkers soon about what changes might be needed to the contract with the new equipment.
Steelworkers Northern B.C. president Frank Everitt doesn't expect those talks to be contentious and said the most of the existing collective bargaining agreement can roll over into the new mill.
"It's great news for our membership, they've been waiting quite some time to have this announcement and it's looking like things are starting to fall into place for the rebuild," he said.
Alec, who worked at the mill for 36 years before the explosion said the news is particularly good for the young workers who now won't be forced to leave the community to look for work.
Both Bens and Alec said they would consider going back to work at the mill when it's expected to re-open in 2014.