It was a perfect Burns Lake winter day – sunny, clear, and cold – when driver Dave Konkin delivered the first load of logs to the yard of the under-construction Babine Forest Products mill near Burns Lake.
Konkin, whose father also drove for Babine, has been with the company for 27 years, and was a mill-worker before becoming a driver.
“It feels good to bring the first load in,” he said.
The original mill was destroyed in January, 2012, in a tragic explosion and fire which saw the loss of two workers’ lives and injured many more.
The rebuild of the mill was, for a long time, an open question in the Burns Lake community.
Construction was able to get underway with full force last spring once winter loosened its grip. With more than 150 workers on site on any given day, the new facility has been going up fast.
The roof is now on the new sawmill building and exterior cladding was being installed as the first load of logs came into the Babine yard via off-highway forestry roads.
Bringing the first logs into the yard held special significance for workers and management who could take time away from the busy worksite for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the weigh scales.
Loaded down, the truck, trailer and off-highway load of logs weighed in at 77,000 kilograms.
It will take about another 2800 loads to fill the yard, so Babine logging contractors will be busy. Five contractors, employing approximately 60 loggers and truckers between them, are expected be able to fill the yard before spring break-up at the end of March.
To anyone driving by on the highway, the mill looks close to being finished, but management is cautious about pinning mill start-up to a specific date. The new Babine mill is expected to begin processing logs by the end of March, or sooner.