Sexton Lumber shut down its operation in Bloomfield yesterday, after the owner says government didn’t grant its application for more harvesting rights.
The shutdown will mean the temporary layoff of 79 employees in Bloomfield. The operation employs 100 people in total.
The company’s supply of trees is dwindling, according to Kevin Sexton, the owner, and 20 feet away from their allocated area stands untouched forest that could provide the raw material the company needs.
Sexton says his company consumes 180,000 cubic metres of forest a year, and needed another 40,000 cubic metres to stay in operation.
The shutdown will last four to six weeks while the company collects enough logs to start again.
“We’ve pretty well harvested all of our annual permit we’ve been allocated by the province,” says Sexton. “Right now we’re out of wood. We’ve been lobbying the government for three months telling them this was going to happen, but we were completely ignored.”
There is a 280,000-cubic-metre area of forest available, previously reserved for Abitibi before it left the province in 2009. Sexton says his company sent a proposal to harvest part of that forest but it was rejected by the Department of Natural Resources.
Sexton says his company’s proposal was rejected in favour of an out-of-province company that wants to harvest wood for pellets.
“Don’t kill existing industry in the process, and that’s what they’re doing,” he says. “They’ve shut us down because we don’t have enough wood supply. We’re 20 feet away from it, our harvesting machines, but they won’t allocate any more or allow us to harvest any more wood.”
The sawmill supplies 15 to 18 tractor trailer loads of fibre per week to the pulp and paper mill in Corner Brook, which Sexton says makes up 30 per cent of the pulp mill’s raw material.
According to a company press release, Sexton Lumber is the largest sawmill in Newfoundland, producing 60 million board feet of lumber on a single shift basis. The mill also produces fibre for pulp and paper production, and bedding for livestock.
In a press release issued shortly after the shut down announcement, the Department of Natural Resources says it offered additional logs to Sexton Lumber in the past month and the company turned them down.
The government provided $2.75 million in the form of an equity investment to Sexton Lumber, the press release states, and continues to support Sexton Lumber with assistance in forest planning, road construction, and staff resources.
“Sexton Lumber is a major player in our forest sector,” says Tom Marshall, minister of natural resources. “We value this operation and its contribution. Our officials continue to work with Sexton Lumber to stabilize the wood supply. Some time is needed to rebuild the sawlog inventory.”