Mills to lose $100 million over caribou plan – by Ron Grech (Timmins Daily Press – February 6, 2013)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – Caribou conservation efforts for the Abitibi River Forest will cost local forestry companies more than $100 million in reduced annual gross sales. That is collectively a quarter in lost profits for the seven mills and six independent operators that have harvesting rights on the Abitibi River Forest.

Local communities are similarly expected to be impacted by immediate reductions of 20 to 25% in harvest areas, according to the 10-year Abitibi River Forest management plan which comes into effect April 1.

The plan acknowledges, the reduction “will potentially provide less economic benefits … due to direct correlation with available harvest volumes. As a result, the lower volumes translate into reduced manufacture of primary products, less taxes and less employment opportunities.”

The mills that operate on the Abitibi River Forest include the Tembec mill in Cochrane, the AbitibiBowater paper mill in Iroquois Falls, Little John Enterprises in Timmins and EACOM Timber Corporation’s sawmills in both Timmins and Gogama.

It is noted in the plan that local mills may not have “the operational flexibility they have been accustomed to in recent years, nor does it allow for significant increases in primary production capacity.”

The affected companies are being encouraged in the plan to make up for any shortfall by maximizing use of the reduced resources they have.

“More than ever, it will be incumbent” on the forestry companies “to maximize utilization of available resources in order to ensure productivity of their dependent mills. Economic opportunities will need to be explored in terms of secondary or value-added products as well as currently underutilized species such as larch and cedar.”

Despite efforts by local politicians to influence changes to minimize these predicted negative economic impacts, the plan is set to come into effect under the same conditions that prompted local mayors to begin raising alarm bells two years ago.

The plan, which is in its final stage of review, was prepared under the direction of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources by a forest management co-operative that represents the various companies which have rights to harvest on the Abitibi River Forest.

Jamie Lim, president and chief executive of the Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA), said the companies are in a “Catch-22” because if they don’t have a plan in place by April 1, no wood gets cut.

“Just because they’re signing off on this doesn’t mean they endorse it,” said Lim, a former Timmins mayor. “Obviously, these are companies that are running. They have employees they are responsible for. They have communities they are responsible for.

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