With the recent news that Conifex is hoping to buy out the Abitibi assets in Mackenzie and talk of a new buyer in the wings for the Pope and Talbot pulp mill, things may start improving for Mackenzie.
The region has two advantages in today’s B.C. forest operations; it has a good fiber basket that has not been impacted by the mountain pine beetle, and, according to Minister of Forests and Range Pat Bell, it has a highly under-inventoried timber supply. “It’s an area that has always had way more wood than was necessary to fire up the mills, so we’ve never really looked at it closely and said what is this timber supply area capable of producing?” He says the area can likely sustain a much higher annual allowable cut than the current limit “That is why you are seeing the keen interest on the part of companies interested in reopening mills in the area but also of course, you’ve been hearing about the Conifex potential take over of the Abitibi operation and I think that will be very good news as well.”
As for the rumoured pending sale of the former Pope and Talbot pulp mill, the Minister says there is still work to be done “We’re holding our cards pretty close to be honest. I am probably more optimistic today than I have been for some time.” Bell says over the past couple of months he was putting the chances of that mill ever opening again at an even 50-50, but says things are looking up “ I am on the higher side of the 50-50 version now, I think there is a very good chance. I know that the employees have been meeting with a potential operating group. A lot of the issues have been dealt with, but you know, until you see that mill actually generating pulp, I don’t think anyone is going to believe its going to happen. We are going to continue to work hard and I think we might get some news one way or the other over the next couple of weeks.”