Quesnel council is supporting a key step in the Quesnel Investment Corporation’s plans to move forward with the former C&C Wood Products.
Quesnel Investment Corporation (QIC) purchased the C&C Wood Products plant this summer after C&C shut down its operation May 29, 2020, and filed for bankruptcy June 2.
Representatives from QIC and the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development were at the Oct. 27 council meeting to provide information about the future of the plant and to request a letter of support for the transfer of a Non-Replaceable Forest Licence (NRFL) from C&C Wood Products to QIC to attach to QIC’s Bill 22 submission. Bill 22 gives government the power to approve or deny tenure transfers.
“Bill 22 is a fairly new amendment to the forestry act,” QIC operations manager George Paul told council. “It’s about 16 months old. It’s my opinion that Bill 22’s primary focus is allowing government to have a say on the transfer of renewable tenure in B.C., primarily for major licensees with large annual cuts like Canfor, Interfor, West Fraser, etc. C&C is neither a major licensee, nor does it have large tenure.”
Paul and QIC forestry superintendent Walter Fookes were at the council meeting in person, while QIC president and owner Mike Jenks joined the meeting by telephone.
Paul and Fookes have managed the woodlands department for C&C for the last 10 years and are currently both employed with Quesnel Investment Corporation.
The NRFL has approximately 577,889 cubic metres of volume remaining, and the annual allowable cut is 68,130 cubic metres. The licence is non-renewable, and it expires June 30, 2027, explained Paul.
“This NRFL was purchased by C&C 13 years ago on a mountain pine beetle licence; as such, it has licence criteria and restrictions, such as location west of the Fraser River in the Quesnel Forest District, licence criteria is 70 per cent pine, and in our stands, it has to have a minimum 30 per cent mountain pine beetle attack,” he said. “The typical stand from this licence looks like deteriorating wood salvage, as in 40 per cent of the wood’s on the ground, over half of it is dead. It’s very small wood.”
Currently, the QIC employs approximately 20-plus employees, including forestry staff, forest consultants, a facility caretaker, a mechanic, harvesting contractors and drivers, according to Fookes.
“It is anticipated that employment levels of the logging and manufacturing operations, on a single-shift basis, will be 6o to 70 people — 45 manufacturing, half a dozen woodlands and 15 harvesting drillers,” he told council. “Management positions will be in addition to these estimates. Most of the employees of QIC’s operations are from Quesnel and the surrounding communities. As the mill gets up to projected operating levels, this will create approximately 60-plus additional indirect jobs, most of which also will be local. The transfer of the tenure secures these jobs and provides the foundation to expand manufacturing operations beyond the initial startup.”
Currently, there are two harvesting contractors operating on one of the approved cutting blocks that is on the licence that is being requested be transferred to QIC, delivering 12 loads a day to a local sawmill, explained Fookes, adding that Westside Logging and Westside Log Hauling are in the process of being liquidated.
Jenks says QIC is currently in discussions with a number of marketing partners and with an operator.
“We’ve transitioned away from in-house harvesting and gone to contract harvesting,” he said. “We feel that will reduce cost to the operation. We also feel that sawing a round log at the mill and creating a one-by-four product wasn’t cost-effective either, so we’re in discussions and negotiations with a local mill to actually supply a rough green product to us to run the re-manufacturing plant.
“Our model anticipates us doing a B2B [business-to-business] agreement with one of the local mills where they will take our raw log, our round log, and pay a fair market value, and then we’ll purchase a rough green blank to in-feed the re-manufacturing plant, so it’s critical that we get the licence transferred so we’re able to meet that obligation. We’re anticipating that there may be logs in excess of the B2B transaction that would be sold or traded in the local markets, so hopefully it will bring any excess volume into the local markets and assist other manufacturers.”
Coun. Mitch Vik wondered if the community can expect the new business model to be similar to what existed prior to QIC’s acquisition.
“Yes, but I would temper that with we don’t anticipate we would have the same number of employees in the mill facility because we’re not going to run the round log breakdown facility at all,” said Jenks. “That will be torn out and there will be an in-feed deck, and we’ll bring in rough stripped blanks.”
Councillors unanimously supported the licence transfer.
“Thank you for stepping up in a situation that was dire for a lot of people who were really, really concerned about what was going to happen with C&C,” said Coun. Scott Elliott. “As far as I’m concerned, I want to see everything transferred over, I want to see you guys up and running as soon as possible, so I’m going to support this for sure.”
Coun. Laurey-Anne Roodenburg saw council’s letter of support as one step in the process.
“If you take a step back and didn’t step up, then this whole mill would shut down and be out completely all of those jobs, so when you talk about your statement of intent, I think it works, and it’s the understanding that everything has to fall into place,” she said.
Coun. Ron Paull also thanked QIC for stepping forward.
“I’m totally on board for this,” he said. “I think we’re all here for the same reason.”