Hampton Affiliates Ltd. has confirmed its commitment to rebuilding its BabineForest Products mill in Burns Lake, British Columbia.
An explosion ripped through the mill in January, killing two workers and injuring 19 others.
In September, the company announced that it intended to rebuild the mill subject to certain conditions including assurance of adequate timber supply.
Hampton has been in consultation with the provincial government, the area’s First Nations, the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, the Village of Burns Lake, and other forest licensees to identify timber supply to support a manufacturing facility.
Burns Lake BC
Burns Lake BC
The new Babine sawmill will be two-thirds the size of the old mill – a reflection of reduced log availability – and will have the capacity to cut metric and ALS dimension lumber.
Hampton CEO Steve Zika told the CBC he wasn’t ready to disclose the cost of the new mill, how many jobs it would provide, or the exact timber supply numbers. “There is a certain amount of faith and trust here,” said Zika. “Nobody knows exactly what the timber supply will be. The B.C. government is still doing its inventory.”
Regardless, the community of Burns Lake sees the announcement as a light during a time of mourning.
“We live daily with the regret and sorrow of the terrible January tragedy that killed two of our employees and forever altered the lives of many in Burns Lake,” said Zika. “Looking forward, theBabine sawmill rebuild will allow our employees and the community to focus on a future of renewed and sustainable economic and social prosperity for Burns Lake.”
Although the exact cause of January’s explosion is still unknown. The new facility will be outfitted with the latest in dust extraction technology. More efficient and better enforced clean-up policies are also in place at Hampton’s other mills.
“We believe Babine will be a viable integrated business going forward with significant co-operation among Hampton, its First Nations partners, and the local community,” said Steve Zika, Hampton’s CEO in a news release. “It will be a model of future sawmill business in B.C. going forward.”
Winter weather has allowed only minimal site foundation work, and major equipment. The new Babine mill is scheduled for completion and start up in early 2014.