Wood Business

COVID-19 chops at NS sawmills as Northern Pulp closure takes its toll

April 2, 2020  By  PJ Boyd

Photo: Annex Business Media

Nova Scotia sawmills have begun to follow suit of the Northern Pulp closure as they close their woodyard doors to new purchases of fresh log supplies. This is due to the ongoing market decline for wood chips following the January closure of Northern Pulp, as well as the new addition of economic declines from COVID-19.

Following the Canadian government’s denial of Northern Pulp’s request to continue pumping treated effluent into a lagoon behind a Mi’kmaq community, it was forced to close its doors this past January. This closure was quickly felt by sawmills in Nova Scotia that now find themselves without a place to send their wood chips to.

Like being kicked while down following the Northern Pulp closure, many Nova Scotia sawmills have begun shutting their doors, announcing an impending closure, or have already closed down production according to a report in The Chronicle Herald. All Nova Scotia sawmills are expected to have made decisions regarding ongoing production as of Friday, April 3, 2020.

These mills include: Elmsdale Lumber, Taylor Lumber in the Musquodoboit Valley, Williams Brothers in Barneys River, Ledwidge Lumber in Enfield and Scotsburn Lumber in Pictou County.


J.D. Irving sawmill in Truro has shut down temporarily due to three confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of April 1.

NS sawmills following Northern Pulp closure as reported by The Chronicle Herald

Freeman Lumber and Scotsburn Lumber began selling their wood chips to Port Hawkesbury Paper following the Northern Pulp closure. Port Hawkesbury Paper has since cut back on wood purchasing and is planning to scale down deliveries scheduled in May. Freeman Lumber has also announced an “indefinite” closing and Scotsburn Lumber will cease milling wood.

Williams Brothers will continue to saw the wood it has in its yard and will begin looking into markets south of the border.

Elmsdale Lumber had been selling their wood chips to Northern Pulp, as many other Nova Scotia sawmills did. Following the closure, they began selling their wood chips – which constitute roughly one third of the volume of each log it mills – to Shaw Resources, which then turns it into pellets for heating. The return from selling these wood chips brings Elmsdale Lumber roughly half of what Northern Pulp would pay to turn them into kraft pulp.

“They made a movie called the Perfect Storm,” said Robyn Wilbur, president of Elmsdale Lumber Company in a statement.

“We’re in it.”

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