Kamloops mill 'confident' it will overcome fibre supply challenges

'Confident' despite shortage

Amid an exceptionally turbulent time for B.C.'s forest industry, a spokesman for Kruger’s Kamloops pulp mill says the company is confident it can overcome challenges brought on by fibre shortages.

Greg Seebach, acting general manager for the Kamloops mill, said Kruger officials are working closely with local and provincial governments, First Nations, area sawmills and other stakeholders to find solutions to fibre shortage issues.

He said the provincial government recently put in measures to help the situation, but more needs to be done.

“There’s been huge challenges in the forest product sector in B.C. due to the fibre shortage issues. And we have the same challenges at the Kamloops mill, we are feeling the crunch of the fibre shortage in B.C.,” Seebach said.

“We’ve experienced many challenges over the past several years, such as COVID and supply chain issues, and we're the only mill in B.C. during those times that hasn't taken any slowdowns or shutdowns, so we're feeling confident that we can overcome the challenges.”

Last week, Western Forest Products confirmed it wouldn’t restart its Port Alberni sawmill, after a month that saw Canfor announcing the shutdown of mills in Chetwynd and Prince George, as well as a two-year closure and retooling of its Houston operation.

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Coun. Bill Sarai said he had recently visited the Kamloops mill, and has since reached out to the Southern Interior Local Government Association after hearing concerns about a “severe fibre shortage in the Interior."

“This is a mill that usually has 45 to 50 days of inventory, and they are down to 15 days,” Sarai said.

“We've got letters of support going to the minister in charge to let them know this is a very serious concern. … We need to get ahead of it, these are good paying jobs in our city that we need to champion for.”

Seebach said the Kamloops mill, which employs about 340 people, is down to a 15-day inventory but is still able to run at a full rate.

“With 15 days inventory we can continue to operate. It’s kind of down to the lowest levels we want to run, but it's really not impacting our operation. We can manage to make the products that we need to make at 15 days inventory,” he said.

“It is concerning — very concerning — that it's so low. But our outlook is good and we're confident that we'll be able to keep the flow of raw material to the mill to keep running in the short term. And then we're looking for some longer term solutions.”

Seebach said mill officials are working hard on creative solutions and finding new sources of fibre to continue operations. He said they have had “positive talks” recently with some groups.

“We’ve got a very dedicated and talented workforce and we're very confident that we will be in it for the long run,” he said.

The Kamloops pulp mill, which produces bleached and unbleached softwood kraft pulp, was purchased by Kruger in June 2022. The mill was sold as a condition of Domtar’s merger with Paper Excellence.

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