Port of Nanaimo loses tenant with mill closure

NANAIMO – Officials say impact on economy lessened as investment moved to Duke Point location.

The closure of Western Forest Products’ waterfront Nanaimo mill will not only have an effect on workers, it will have an effect on the port as well.

The mill is set to close at the end of the year and according to Bernie Dumas, Nanaimo Port Authority president and CEO, the port will lose a tenant in the process.

“The port has been leasing the property since the late ’70s, so we have a very strong relationship with Western Forest Products and we’re a bit sad about them closing the operation, but we fully understand what they need to do, so it’s going to affect the port, as far as a revenue source,” Dumas said, adding that details of the arrangement could not be disclosed.

Jeet Manhas, port authority board chairman, said it hasn’t yet been decided what will happen to the mill site once it is vacated.

About 60 employees will be affected by Monday’s announcement and according to Sasha Angus, Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation CEO, the corporation is hopeful that job loss is minimal. The mill is investing approximately $10 million in the Duke Point sawmill operation, something Angus said has the potential to be a good thing.

“On balance, it will probably be positive, just because the new capital investment signals their long-term interest in the community,” said Angus. “That their geography is moving from downtown to Duke Point, obviously people in the region as far as Ladysmith spend in our local stores here. Nanaimo’s a service hub that way.”

He said that while the investment is not on the waterfront, it will benefit the region overall.

The United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 and the company will be meeting next week to discuss transition and according to Western Forest Products, the mill is expected to close at the end of the year.

“We’re working with the same information the rest of the community is around the transition that they’re working through with the union…” Angus said. “We’ve reached out to the company to talk about what that looks like. If there’s any role the NEDC can play in helping with the transition, and quite frankly, how we make sure that their investment in the community continues to foster potentially new jobs.”