CORRECTED: Conifex temporarily closes former Pope & Talbot Fort St. James sawmill in British Columbia to clean up sawdust

LOS ANGELES , April 30, 2012 () – Industry Intelligence Editor's Note: the first paragraph and headline have been amended to reflect that Conifex is the owner of the former Pope & Talbot sawmill in Fort St. James.

Conifex has temporarily closed the former Pope & Talbot sawmill in Fort St. James, British Columbia, to clean up sawdust, according to a report by HazardEx. Conifex has owned the mill since 2008.

John Allen, president and CEO of the Council of Forest Industries (COFI), said dust removal was now a high priority for mills after the recent explosions at Babine Forest Products in January and Sinclar Group's Lakeland Mills last week.

Speaking outside a meeting involving the provincial government, WorkSafeBC, industry and union leaders, Allen said there was no proof that the highly flammable dust caused either explosion, but it was one common denominator.

BC Labour Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said a working group was being formed to immediately address worker safety in sawmills. WorkSafeBC has ordered all sawmills in British Columbia to conduct inspections and implement combustible dust control problem measures in time for inspections to be conducted by May 9.

The explosions have highlighted the challenges of processing pine beetle-killed wood, which is exceptionally dry. Ellis, senior VP of corporate services with WorkSafe BC, said there was a high high level of nervousness and concern.

Allen said it was not practical to reduce the consumption of beetle-killed wood, but that the industry would take steps to mitigate against any issues from milling beetle wood, including dust.

He has also called for a public dialog on imminent timber supply issues in mountain pine beetle-hit areas, saying in an interview with the Vancouver Sun that the Canadian government needs to get ahead of the issue as there is not much time left.

The primary source of this article is HazardEx, Tonbridge, U.K., on April 27, 2012.

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