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Family sawmill in Midway shutting down

Vaagen family sawmill, starved of fibre, is shutting down indefinitely
The sun may be setting on small family sawmill in Midway, B.C.

The tiny village of Midway, B.C., population 651, in the south central Okanagan, is losing one of its few big employers.

The Vaagan Fibre Canada sawmill is shutting down indefinitely, due to a lack of logs, the family owned sawmill announced Friday.

As a result, 85 workers will be laid off, and roughly 100 vendors, suppliers and contractors will be affected by the closure. 

However, the company offered some hope the mill could be saved, if the provincial government can find a way to help secure the mill a source of fibre.

The small sawmill has no tenure, so it must source logs from private landowners and small woodlots.

"Although our team has been creative for years in finding logs to run our mill, there are a few challenges that have compounded for us, and without resolution, the future of our operation is uncertain," the company said in an announcement posted on its website. "This is an access to wood fibre at market price issue."

That has become a familar refrain in B.C. In recent years, despite high lumber prices, mills have shut down permanently or taken curtailments due to a lack of afforable timber.

While the loss of a significant amount of the annual allowable cut to pests and fires is the main reasons for a shrinking timber supply, recent government policies have also further restricted access to logs. Most recently, the province's old growth deferrals resulted in an immediate halt to BC Timber Sales from areas deemed old growth, which has even further tightened the supply of logs.

The mill was shuttered once before in 2008, the company noted, under previous owners -- Pope and Talbot. The company said it is working with the provincial government, in the hope of securing a source of logs so the mill can be reopened.

"Our family and leadership team are looking for any and every opportunity to reopen, and we believe it is possible," the company said.

The company is urging its supporters to lobby Boundary-Similkameen MLA Roly Russell, who is Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development, to help save the mill.

"Let him know how important the mill is to our communities and ask him to bring the voice of the people forward to the Minister of Forests to find solutions to help Vaagen Fibre Canada reopen," the company said in its post.

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