Hampton Affiliates to rebuild Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake, British Columbia, contingent on securing timber supply; smaller, state-of-the-art replacement mill set to open early 2014

PORTLAND, Oregon , September 17, 2012 (press release) – Hampton Affiliates and the Burns Lake Native Development Corporation (BLNDC) announced today that they intend to rebuild the Babine sawmill that was destroyed by fire on January 20th, 2012. Steve Zika, CEO of Hampton Affiliates, commented, “There is no way to reverse the terrible tragedy that occurred on that fateful night that killed two of our workers and forever altered the lives of many in Burns Lake. However, we hope this good news will allow our employees and the community to focus on a positive effort to restore economic vitality to Burns Lake.

The decision by the Hampton family and Board of Directors was not an easy one due to the precarious timber supply situation brought about by the pine beetle that has ravaged forests throughout British Columbia. However, they felt comfortable moving forward with the rebuild based on preliminary negotiations with the Ministry of Forests and the solid support of all six First Nations bands of the BLNDC who have pledged to commit timber supply to the new Babine sawmill,” said Zika.

Chief Albert Gerow, who is President and CEO of the BLNDC and attended the recent Hampton Board meeting, said, “The explosion and loss of two lives at Babine Forest Products was a huge tragedy to the employees, the families, and the community. A decision not to rebuild the mill would also be a huge tragedy.” Chief Gerow added, “We look forward to strengthening our partnership with Hampton as we work to emerge with a long-term viable business that is vital to First Nations throughout the Lakes District.”

Zika cautioned that the decision to proceed was contingent on working out satisfactory timber supply agreements with the B.C. Government, the Burns Lake Community Forest and the First Nations; as well as negotiating an acceptable operating agreement with the United Steel Workers Union. Zika added, “We are excited about rebuilding the mill and what it will mean to the community, but the Hampton Directors expect these critical agreements to be finalized in time for their December 3rd Board meeting so they can be assured that some of the risk in this decision has been reduced.

The Burns Lake community has been hit hard by the January 20th tragedy, but has stepped up to care for the injured and worked tirelessly to rally for a new sawmill. We are grateful for all of the support that has been shown for rebuilding the mill by the B.C. Government, First Nations, local political leadership, the Union, and the Burns Lake community. We also want to acknowledge the hard work of John Rustad, Norm Macdonald, and the rest of the Special Committee on Timber Supply who worked quickly and effectively to provide the government with the flexibility to craft a solution for Burns Lake,” continued Zika.

“We will continue to proceed with engineering, site preparation and equipment selection in preparation for construction of a new sawmill while we quickly formalize critical timber supply and other operating agreements. Assuming agreements are completed expeditiously, we expect to build a new Babine sawmill that, while smaller than the old sawmill, will have state-of-the-art technology and be open for business in early 2014.”

Hampton Affiliates is a family-owned forest products business headquartered in Portland, Oregon, employing about 1,400 people primarily in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. Hampton owns approximately 90,000 acres of timberland, managed on a sustainable basis, certified through the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and eight sawmills in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia with normal lumber production capacity in excess of 2.3 billion board feet. The Babine Forest Products and Decker Lake sawmills are a joint venture operated in conjunction with the Burns Lake Native Development Corporation of Burns Lake, B.C. Hampton also has wholesale and distribution operations that deliver building products to customers all over the world.

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