Tamar Atik

Tamar Atik

Feb. 22, 2017 - Amidst ongoing negotiations for a new softwood lumber agreement between Canada and the United States, the Canadian government has announced a task force on softwood lumber.

The task force will ensure communication between the federal government and all provinces and territories to ensure needs are being met via information-sharing and analysis.

Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr made the announcement Wednesday. "Canada's forest and natural resource sectors are vital to employment in communities across the country,” he said in a statement. “This new task force will work together to strengthen the long-term success of the forest sector through innovation and diversifying markets for Canadian forest products.”

Minister Carr will take charge of the domestic task force while Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland continues talks with the U.S.

The 2006 Canada-U.S. Softwood Lumber Agreement expired on Oct. 12, 2015. Since then, the proverbial flame under Canada and the U.S. regarding softwood lumber was re-ignited in November 2016 after the U.S. Lumber Coalition filed a petition against the Canadian government, citing unfair subsidies are being provided by the Canadian government for Canadian producers. It also called for taxes to be imposed on Canadian producers as a result.

"Softwood lumber is a priority for our government. We are committed to promoting and vigorously defending the interests of workers and producers from across Canada,” Minister Freeland said in a statement. “My colleagues and I will continue to work very closely with the softwood industry, its workers, the provinces and territories."

According to a statement from Natural Resources Canada the end-goal for the softwood negotiations is to create stability and predictability on both sides of the border for all lumber producers.

“The government will continue to work closely with provinces, territories and the softwood lumber industry to vigorously defend the interests of the middle-class Canadians who depend on the industry. This work will continue outside of the task force,” the statement read.

“The new Federal–Provincial Task Force on Softwood Lumber will assess current federal and provincial programming and ensure coordination of government initiatives to promote innovation, market diversification and transformation of the forest sector.”

According to Natural Resources Canada, the country’s forest industry directly employs more than 200,000 people nationwide. And nearly 70 per cent of Canada’s $8.6 billion worth of softwood lumber exports in 2015 were sent to the U.S.

Feb. 17, 2017 - In the midst of the ongoing softwood lumber dispute between Canada and the United States, Ontario's minister of Natural Resources and Forestry has called upon the federal minister of Natural Resources to implement a federal loan guarantee program to help support the forestry industry and the communities that rely on it.

Minister Kathryn McGarry brought the proposal forward in a letter to Minister Jim Carr. 

McGarry says the loan guarantee program "would also ensure that all affected producers are treated equally, as opposed to participating in a variety of provincially based programs."

She says that approximately $5 billion worth of duties were forcibly paid by Canadian softwood lumber producers in the last round of trade negotiations.

She says Ontario's goal is for Canada as a whole to maintain market access, and to minimalize the blow of impending duties as much as possible on softwood lumber producers. 

McGarry says it is likely that Canadian softwood lumber producers will be paying taxes imposed by the U.S. government by May 2017.
Feb. 14, 2017 - A logger killed in the Woods Lagoon area of B.C. on Feb. 4 was the first harvesting fatality of 2017, according to the BC Forest Safety Council.

The faller was struck by a tree, uphill from where he was working.

"Our condolences go out to the family and co-workers of the deceased," BC Forest Safety said in a statement.

The council released the following safety information as a precaution to others:

  1. Red and yellow cedars in rocky areas with shallow or wet soils are likely to be unstable. Cedars naturally have shallow roots and other characteristic hazards. A list of hazards for the common tree species is below or on page 2 of this alert.
  2. Weather conditions can cause significant changes in ground conditions. Heavy rainfall can reduce soil strength which causes landslides and tree instability. Frequent freeze and thaw cycles can create ground instability and rockfall.
  3. Overhead hazards are difficult to see and are often a cause of falling incidents. Take the time to assess the tree and look for hazards like limb tied trees and dead tops or branches.
  4. Many falling incidents are the result of chain reactions. The tree being felled can cause unexpected movement in nearby trees, logs, rootwads or rocks. As part of the hazard assessment, anticipate what chain reactions may occur.
The fatality is currently under investigation by WorkSafeBC and the Coroners Service.
Feb. 13, 2017 - Lumber company Hefler Forest Products is being sold to merchant bank Hawthorne Capital and wind farm company Katalyst Wind Inc. for an undisclosed amount.

The N.S.-based company had been under creditor protection since July 2016.

Among the assets, Hefler's biomass plant is what remains running, but Hawthorne Capital president Trevor Hannigar told the Chronicle Herald there are plans to revive the sawmill.

“Although the energy side is important and we are excited to be contributing to renewable energy in the region, our team is considering all options to get the sawmill running again, including the possibility of having a third party operate it,” Hannigar told The Chronicle Herald.

The business deal is set to close on Feb. 24.

Read the full story.

RELATED: Hefler asks creditors for more time
Feb. 13, 2017 - Ever had your eyes glued to the screen watching elaborate cottage and cabin renovation shows?

Well Log Cabin Hub magazine has created an infographic offering a peek at log homes that go beyond your typical, humble abode. Belonging to public figures ranging from Ralph Lauren and Paul McCartney, all the way to Oprah Winfrey and Queen Elizabeth II, here are 20 log cabins of the rich and famous:

(Click on the image below and expand to see the full list.)

Feb. 2, 2017 - Lug loaders to date have traditionally either been hydraulic or pneumatic systems, but wood processing equipment supplier USNR has introduced a different take on the machine.

Its ElectraTong lug loader is all-electric. USNR’s engineering manager of its Salmon Arm, B.C. division, Thomas Congdon gave Canadian Forest Industries the details of this new system.

“One of the biggest things is, by being all-electric, you get away from the nuisances that come from hydraulics or pneumatics. You’re not worrying about leaks and it’s easier to maintain,” Congdon says. “The other thing with the all-electric is that we can set up parameters and a recipe. So at a push of a button, you can change from a recipe that’s aimed at a certain species of lumber or a certain wood diet.”

“If it’s a planer mill application, then it can be set up per batch of the product you’re producing,” he says. Congdon explains that the set up refers to timing points or when lumber is picked up and released, as well as how quickly lumber can be moved into the lug loader.

Thomas Congdon Photo//USNRCongdon says those aspects make the ElectraTong more appealing to sawmillers because pneumatic and hydraulic systems don’t allow changing such specifications through a computer interface. “You have to go over and physically adjust things, so this way it can all be done through the control system,” he says.

“You can switch from a certain set up from one species of wood to another, or frozen wood and non-frozen wood; that type of thing. So there are a lot of advantages to the electric.”

Glen Sorenson is the maintenance manager at B.C.-based Gorman Bros. Lumber. He says the company is happy with their new ElectraTong lug loader.

“We’ve been able to move our operators from the lug loader [and] we’ve also increased our lug-per-minute rate through the line,” Sorenson says.

Congdon says the ElectraTong lug loader can run over 250 LPM in certain applications.

Gorman Bros.’ old lug loader ran off a hydraulic system.

Sorenson says installation of the ElectraTong went very well. “We did several pieces of equipment at the same time. We took out our hydraulic fence and installed the USNR fence. We also took out the scanner and put in [USNR’S] new scanner.”

Congdon says the electric system also allows for sensing how hard the board is being clamped. “We can do that through electrical feedback and load sensing. And therefore we can, on the fly, adjust how hard we are clamping the wood,” he says. “You don’t want to over-clamp it and mark it and you don’t want to under-clamp it and not grab the board well. So that’s something that can be set up as part of the electric recipe based on what you’re trying to do.”

Sorenson mentions two other differences Gorman Bros. noticed since the new installation. “We’re able to run the line at a higher speed and we’ve increased our piece count through the line as well,” Sorenson says.

He says the increased piece count and getting the operators away from the lug loader are the main changes with the new equipment, adding that the latter also makes operations safer.

Congdon says USNR has not experienced any issues with retrofitting the lug loader to certain space requirements.

“It fits in a similar footprint to other lug loaders. It does require a slight offset elevation, but we have a way to make that up and fit it into an existing level trim line space,” Congdon says.

“It’s gone very nicely in. All of our installations to date have been retrofit installations except for one. It was a stud mill in British Columbia, that was a new line,” he says.

ElectraTongAs pleased as Gorman Bros. is with their new machine, Sorenson says there is one limitation. “What we do is we cut three-inch to 12-inch, so it is a challenge to deal back-to-back 12-inch pieces with three-inch mixed in,” he says. “And I don’t think we can get much higher at this point in piece count than where we are.”

“That said we haven’t been able to do what we’re doing now with our old lug loader,” Sorenson adds.

To date, four lug loaders have been installed in Canada and three in the U.S., but Congdon says six have now been sold in the U.S.

Congdon says the lug loader is for both sawmills and planer mills.

“In the planer mill application we can use a different gripping tong to not damage the wood. It’s for all types of products. It can do one-inch to over four-inch, stud mills, full dimension mills,” he says.

“Being a tong style lug loader, it’s very good at random widths and random thicknesses,” Congdon says. “The way we do backlog control is unique and we’re using our product called Mill Track, which is a camera-based system that looks down over top of the lug loader and lug load infeed, and then we control those backlog tables with the camera systems.”

Sorenson’s favourite aspect of the ElectraTong? “It’s tunable, the clamping pressure is adjustable; everything is just much more controlled with servos controlling the infeeds and the clamping… We’re happy with it.”


Video: Maria Church, Canadian Forest Industries editor

Top photo: Thomas Congdon, engineering manager of USNR's Salmon Arm, B.C., division. Courtesy//USNR

Bottom photo: The ElectraTong lug loader. Courtesy//USNR

WATCH Thomas Congdon talk about the ElectraTong with CFI editor Maria Church in Portland, Ore.
Feb. 1, 2017 - BC Forest Safety ombudsman Roger Harris says forestry workers are not receiving emergency help quickly enough in rural or remote areas.

In a report released on Wednesday, the ombudsman says that rural communities are impacted twice as much as their urban counterparts, adding that injured workers often wait many hours before being rescued via air ambulance.

Harris cited the example of an injured logger on the Haida Gwaii archipelago in 2014. The logger, whose leg was crushed, waited more than five hours to be taken to hospital — a trip that should have taken 20 minutes via helicopter. The report goes on to say the injured logger waited another six hours before being transported to a Vancouver hospital.

“For remote communities, as the distance to the nearest medical facility increases, the access to HEMS should be enhanced, not reduced,” Harris says.

The ombudsman’s recommendations include establishing guaranteed rescue timelines, reviewing the effectiveness of legislation, and the expanding the use of the hoisting rescue technique versus longlining in B.C.
Feb. 1, 2017 - J.D. Irving, Limited has been charged with two counts of violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

William Gregg, 52, died in February 2016 after suffering a head injury while on the job at J.D. Irving’s Sussex, N.B., sawmill. 

The charges were laid on Tuesday and cite that the company failed to provide adequate supervision on site and failed to prevent the use of a machine that was to be cleaned.

The incident was investigated by WorkSafeNB.

The charges come at a time when workplace safety is at the forefront in other parts of the country as well.

Related article: J.D. Irving sawmill death under investigation 

Feb. 1, 2017 - Grim news of workplace deaths are serving as yet another reminder to practice safety on the job.

Ivor Lundin, 57, was a Tolko employee. He went out on the water on Okanagan Lake in a boom boat on Monday night while working near the company’s Kelowna, B.C. plant.

According to reports, Tolko lost contact with Lundin at 9:21 p.m. and what started off as a rescue mission became a recovery one. RCMP officers recovered Lundin’s body on Tuesday.

The investigation is ongoing. No details have been released on what may have caused the incident.

Another man also died while working at a log yard operation in Lumby, B.C., on Friday.

No details have been released on the name of the victim or the company.

Both the RCMP and WorkSafeBC are investigating.

The B.C. Federation of Labour (BCFED) released a statement calling for the B.C. government to put increased workplace safety measures into place.

“All workers must enjoy the basic right to be safe on the job and to come home safely to their families at the end of their shift. But these two deaths — along with a third involving a Victoria construction workers two weeks ago — are a sign that more needs to be done to protect workers,” says Irene Lanzinger, president of the BCFED.

“Our view is that government and employers aren’t doing enough to keep workers safe on the job,” Lanzinger says. “Health and safety protections are weak and not always rigorously enforced. Worker safety is being compromised. Injured workers aren’t fairly compensated, and employers whose negligence kills or seriously injures workers are let off with a slap on the wrist.”

The BCFED says it will continue to push government to improve safety on the job.

Feb. 1, 2017 - With the mountain pine beetle population now being brought down to manageable levels, the Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) has also been decreased significantly for British Columbia. The outcome? Mill closures. And less mills means less jobs.

Hakan Ekstrom is the president of forest industry consulting firm Wood Resources International. “More sawmills will be shut down in British Columbia. The question is, will it be three, four, five or six sawmills? And will it be in the next three, four or five years?” he said to Business Vancouver.

The massive beetle outbreak began in 1999 and peaked in 2004 before being brought under control in 2015.

In B.C. alone, the beetle outbreak resulted in more than 16 million hectares of trees being destroyed, according to the B.C. government.

Read the full story by Business Vancouver's Gordon Hamilton.
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