Steve Zika, Chief Executive Officer of Hampton Affiliates, and David Hampton, one of the owners, announced today in Burns Lake that the company will proceed with the rebuild of the Babine Forest Products Mill destroyed in an explosion on Jan. 20, 2012.
“The board agreed that we’re going to rebuild the sawmill,” said Zika.
In response to new forest license arrangements designed to increase timber supply in the Lakes Timber Supply Area announced by province on Sept. 11 in Burns Lake, Hampton Affiliates had agreed to proceed with plans to rebuild the mill on the assumption that the timber supply arrangements described by the province would be finalized by a Dec. 3 meeting of the board of Hampton Affiliates.
The timber supply arrangements required co-operation between the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, the Village of Burns Lake and the six First Nations in the area.
“To the board, the question was ‘Are the groups committed to working together’?” said Zika.
“In a world where the pine beetle has taken a lot of the timber supply, you really have to have everybody working together to be successful. It’s a risk, but we’re comfortable taking it based on the level of support we’ve seen in the community,” he said.
Some foundation work has already been completed at the mill site. New construction is expected to begin by the end of March 2013 and the mill should be ready to take timber by early 2014.
“They’re pouring the slab today,” said Zika. “You’ll see a limited amount of activity over the next few months, but you’ll see things really pick up at the end of March. We’re doing detailed engineering and lining up contractors so that when the weather breaks we’ll be ready to go.”
The recent decision by WorkSafe BC to forward findings of workplace safety act violations in its investigation to Crown Counsel for consideration was not taken in a positive light by the hampton board of directors.
“We would like to know what the report says,” said Zika. “We’d like to have definitive answers but we don’t yet.”
Although the details of that report remain secret, Hampton is confident that the new mill will meet the most modern standards of mill safety.
“We’re going to put systems in place that ensure the sawmill to be as safe as we can possibly make it,” said Hampton.
Hampton Affiliates currently operates the Decker Lake specialty saw mill in Burns Lake, as well as six other mills in the U.S.
“We have worked diligently on improving clean-up routines and dust reduction at our Decker Lake sawmill and at Hampton’s other mills in the U.S.,” said Zika. “The company is also actively participating with Worksafe and the industry task force, on combustion risks and will incorporate these findings into a new Babine sawmill.”