Those who supply the second largest sawmill in this province warn that unless a market is quickly found for its wood chips, Harry Freeman and Son Ltd. will close its doors.
Two weeks ago, the second generation plant in Greenfield, Queens County, announced that it would stop taking wood “indefinitely”.
Although its owners do not speak publicly, its suppliers warn that the plant will close unless a dressing solution is found for its rapidly accumulating pile of wood chips.
Freeman’s still has about a month and a half of wood in his yard and the chips pile up. The plant, which employs approximately 160 people, sold its wood chips to Northern Pulp in Pictou County.
But the kraft mill was forced to close when Prime Minister Stephen McNeil refused to extend the Boat Harbor law last December.
“This stop has nothing to do with COVID-19. This is what (the government) is using as a scapegoat, “said Colin Hughes, owner of Colin Hughes Forestry.
“If (the government) had not closed Northern Pulp, this plant would not face a closure. Or if they were ready to work with the secondary solution right in front of them, it would allow us all to function somewhat. “
The forest industry has argued that Emera’s Brooklyn Pulp and Power could work as a temporary solution to the market crisis created when Northern Pulp stopped buying the softwood shavings produced as a by-product of the sawmill.
Between roundwood and factory shavings, Northern Pulp consumed about 1.1 million tonnes of softwood fiber per year.
“They might need to make some changes, but physically, this is a site that could burn these fleas,” said Stephen Cole, a forest broker for HC Haynes Ltd of Brooklyn Pulp and Power.
The biomass power plant is more expensive to operate than other power plants owned by Emera’s subsidiary, Nova Scotia Power.
So far, the provincial government has refused to legislate it to be an “exploitable” facility as it did previously with the Point Tupper biomass plant. This designation was later withdrawn at Point Tupper, fearing that a large amount of cutting would be done just to provide the plant with material to burn.
The Department of Energy did not respond to a request for comment on the matter until Tuesday’s deadline.
At Elmsdale Lumber, Robin Wilber is grateful that he was able to find a market for his wood chips, even if he sells them for half of what Northern Pulp paid. His go to a pellet mill.
And they’ve integrated social distancing at the plant, which employs about 50 people on site – don’t let truckers out of their vehicles, make sure lunches are eaten alone and replace most checks with wire transfers.
“We are working,” said Wilber.
“Our concern is that a North American recession caused by COVID-19 will cause lumber prices to drop significantly. Where we already get a lot less for our value-added by-product, if we also get less for our wood, we would have a problem. “