An extended curtailment of paper operations announced by Paper Excellence for the Crofton mill is not only due to the COVID-19 crisis.
“This is the intersection of three Black Swan events,” said Graham Kissack, the company’s vice president of Environment, Health and Safety & Corporate Communication, who’s currently working at home in Mill Bay during the pandemic. “Three things have put us in that position.”
During the last six months, Paper Excellence has been heavily impacted by a material shortage of economic forest fibre on B.C.’s coast resulting from the strike at Western Forest Products operations; a significant external Malware attack that rendered paper business enterprise systems inoperable for a period of time and, of course, COVID-19 which has impacted the supply chain for many of the paper products the company manufactures.
The C2 paper machine at Crofton will run until April 21 before being curtailed. It’s uncertain when the restart will occur.
“We’re guessing mid-summer, but there’s so many moving parts right now it’s very difficult to make a forecast,” said Kissack.
“The Crofton paper operations have been on and off since the Malware attack happened on Feb. 19.”
There’s still an ongoing police investigation into that attack.
“We’re still working to recover from that,” noted Kissack. “It’s still impairing our ability to fully operate.”
The latest curtailment is also affecting paper operations at the Powell River mill.
Paper Excellence will be servicing its core paper customer base from the Port Alberni operation during this period, along with intermittent manufacturing runs at the Crofton facility as opportunities permit. All production activity will take place under enhanced protocols aimed at ensuring the health and safety of employees and communities, and addressing the COVID-19 challenge.
Kissack said a COVID operating plan went into effect in early March.
“We have very, very stringent measures in place at all of our mills,” he indicated. “We’ve been able to minimize the impact of this to our operations from a health perspective.”
The entire situation remains highly fluid and a timeline for operational procedures may be modified in the coming months.
Paper Excellence is hopeful that decisions of municipal, provincial and federal governments on mitigation measures offered to help maintain business during COVID-19 will provide the immediate needed relief for the forest industry.
“These continue to be unprecedented times and we will continue to engage with governments as we seek to chart a path forward for our affected employees and communities hit the hardest by these events,” Kissack added.
“Paper Excellence continues to believe British Columbia can be a leader in the pulp and paper industry and remains committed to its long-term investment in the province.”