Northwood, Isle Pierre hit by Canfor curtailments

Canfor and Canfor Pulp are curtailing production at Northwood Pulp Mill, Isle Pierre Sawmill, Plateau Sawmill in Vanderhoof and Houston Sawmill in Houston, B.C. for three weeks.

In a statement issued on Thursday evening, the company said a planned spring maintenance shutdown at Northwood will be postponed until later in the year, and the mill will shutdown for three weeks.

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"Northwood will be fully curtailed from April 25 to May 17. Approximate 470 employees will be impacted," Canfor and Canfor Pulp director of corporate communications Michelle Ward said in an email. "This is the only pulp curtailment currently planned. There is the potential for further adjustments to operating plans. Canfor Pulp is closely monitoring potential staffing shortages, customer demand and volatility in the financial markets."

The curtailment at Northwood is expected to cut production of 35,000 tonnes of northern bleached softwood kraft pulp.

The Isle Pierre, Plateau and Houston sawmills will be curtailed from March 30 to April 17 as part of a Canada-wide reduction of 70 million board feet of production. The curtailment is expected to impact 90 employees at Isle Pierre, 300 workers at Plateau and another 300 in Houston.

The company is also curtailing production at sawmills in Radium Hot Springs and Elko, B.C. from March 30 to April 10, impacting a total of 340 employees.

Canfor Pulp has slashed $15 million from its capital spending program for the year, and Canfor has cut $20 million in planned capital spending at its Canadian and U.S. operations. Ward declined to comment on any local impact of those spending cuts.

The company is reducing lumber production in the U.S. by 50 million board feet and in Europe by 17 million board feet.

Canfor and Canfor Pulp are implementing measures, based on recommendations by the World Health Organization and Canadian public health officials, at their operations to protect workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ward said by email.

"Canfor’s Operations Leadership team continues to assess the business continuity plan during COVID-19 for each of our mill operations. We have developed a flexible schedule for our woodlands employees who are able to work from home and have implemented effective social distancing for our mill employees while ensuring business continuity and the safe and efficient running of our mill," Ward said in an email. "We have implemented a schedule to ensure regular, thorough cleanings. At the start of our shifts we have all operators spray and clean their respective booths, consoles or mobile equipment. We have implemented social distancing procedures which includes the elimination of large gatherings in the lunch room and crew talks, and visitors are limited to essential services and must be pre-screened before accessing the site."

Each operation is provided with hand soaps, hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes, and additional cleaning supplies. 

“Our principal focus is ensuring the safety and well-being of our people through these unprecedented times, while taking the necessary actions to protect the long-term sustainability of our business,” said Canfor president and Canfor Pulp CEO Don Kayne said in a press release.

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