Saturday, January 28, 2012

What Caused the Burns Lake Sawmill Explosion?

I was on the road last weekend when I heard about the explosion at the Burns Lake sawmill that killed two people and injured 19 more.  It was surprising because you don't often hear about explosions at sawmills, and most mills have good safety practices that try to minimize the number of accidents.

The destruction of this mill will also have a big effect on the employment situation in the area.  Small towns with lumber mills are usually heavily reliant on the jobs the mills provide.  I've heard that the rebuilding of the mill isn't certain due to the reduced timber supply in the area from mountain pine beetle attack.  Even if they do decide to rebuild, it would take about a year and a half to construct.  In the meantime, workers dependent on this mill have to switch employers or possibly leave town to find work, which is hard on family life.  The question of rebuilding the mill will have to involve the owners, government and employees working together to create a viable operation.

There is still speculation on what caused the explostion, but the most popular theory seems to be a build up of sawdust in the air that was somehow ignited.  The wood that was being processed by the mill was dry, dead pine, and many people have commented on how high the dust levels were in weeks leading up to the accident.  It was actually pointed out as a safety hazard for inhalation.  If a build up of sawdust was the cause, similar mills should take note and ensure dust particles don't reach such dangerous levels.

For recent information on the Burns Lake sawmill accident, visit:



Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lumber Sales to China Slowing?

I meant to post about this in December, but it was just too busy and I had to spend a little time finding the right article.

The Globe and Mail reported in December that BC lumber sales to China were slowing down as late as October. If you read the article carefully, it appears that shipments are still near all time highs, they are just not growing as much as they have been year over year. The main reason for this is that China's real estate market has been slowing, and lumber inventories are high. According to the article, things may improve in the spring, but it will depend on how China's economy is doing.

The US is still a major customer of BC lumber, and the forecast is that lumber shipments may keep improving over the next three years.

In a nutshell, while there may not be a lot of growth happening in lumber shipments, China is still taking a lot more lumber than they used to and the US is still the biggest customer.

According to Statistics Canada data compiled by BC Stats, October was the sixth-biggest sales month for B.C. foresters in China but, at $89-million, the figure was only 8 per cent higher than a year ago. While shipments remain near an all-time peak, growth may not re-emerge until spring.

Wood Markets International, a Vancouver industry consultant, predicted on Wednesday that U.S. lumber demand and prices would “rise slowly” in 2012, gain “momentum” in 2013, and that “price surges” would start in 2014, propelled by strong demand as the U.S. and China chase tight supply.

Click below to read the full article, there are many interesting details in it:
Lumber sales to China