After nine weeks of shutdown, Midway’s mill is back up and running.
Vaagen Fibre Canada shut down on Feb. 10, but more than 40 workers returned to the site, beginning April 20, to work one 10-hour shift per day.
“We are making every effort to get our employees and contractors back to work” said Dan Macmaster, Fibre Manager at Vaagen Fibre Canada, in a press release. “Our communities depend on our mill. Our local community forest depends on our mill. Our partnership with the Osoyoos Indian Band depends on our mill.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Macmaster said that safety precautions have been reviewed and approved by WorkSafeBC and allow for mill workers to return. Before calling staff back, Macmaster said that each person was asked about their recent health and travel history.
Cleaning solution and wipes will also be available at every work station, no large group meetings will be held, and breaks will be staggered to foster physical distancing.
According to Macmaster, Vaagen Fibre Canada has about five-weeks’ worth of logs in its yard to sustain a 10-hour per day, five days per week shift, but a hampered lumber market means that the mill may find more of a challenge sourcing more logs after that point.
Interfor’s Grand Forks mill manager Dave Parsons said April 20 that the company “does not foresee the Grand Forks mill returning to production in May,” noting that any change would depend on the status of American markets. The mill has been shut down since March 23. Meanwhile, other mills across the province have taken similar cutback measures as demand for wood is down in the American construction market. In March, Interfor announced that it would be cutting back production across its mills by approximately 60 per cent, in response to the industry changes.
Vaagen does not have and forest tenure and thus mostly relies on purchasing its logs from other wood cutters such as Interfor and the West Boundary Community Forest.
“If there’s no wood moving from anybody else, I don’t have access to any wood,” Macmaster said. “So, you know, the hard part here is I don’t know how long I can keep this up. Because once the wood runs out, I don’t have access anymore.
“I kind of need others to use their forest license to get wood moving so I can buy it.”