TIMMINSPRESS.COM — After recently acquiring EACOM Timber Corporation, Interfor has announced it is investing $8.4 million to enhance its nine mills in Ontario and Quebec, including those in Timmins and Gogama.

The mills in Timmins and Gogama will each receive just short of $1 million in discretionary capital funding from this announcement.

For Timmins, that money is in addition to any funding that is currently being allocated for repairs following the fire at the sawmill which occurred early Valentine’s Day morning.

“We’re still down. Everybody is back to work and they’re all working on safety projects, cleaning, painting, and refurbishing areas of the mill,” said Éric Larouche, Interfor’s newly appointed senior vice-president of Operations for Eastern Canada.

“We haven’t laid off anybody. The intent is to keep the team in Timmins intact … We’re shooting to resume the sawmill on one shift on March 7. And so far our project team has indicated that we should be resuming the planer mill, where the fire was, by the end of April.”

Larouche said they will keep staff from the second shift busy during that interim period while they’re operating with a single shift.

“We’re not going to lay off the second shift. The second shift will keep working on mill improvements.”

As for repairing the damage from the fire, Larouche said, “We have to replace some equipment. The part of the roof where it collapsed, there will have to be a rebuild down the road. We’re going to put temporary mobile trailers until that has been completed.

“And everything that has been pointed out by the adjusters or the insuring company that we’ve been working with, we’ll replace, upgrade, clean up or refurbish.”

Larouche said the $8.4 million announced this week is discretionary capital funding and he is leaving it up to individual mill managers to decide how to spend that money.

With the change in ownership, Larouche said he wanted to hit the ground running as the newly appointed senior VP of Operations for Eastern Canada.

The transaction officially closed on Feb. 23.

“As soon as the deal was announced back in November, and I knew I was the one who would be leading the Eastern Canada region, I wanted to make a meaningful and material decision that was going to have an impact on our people,” explained Larouche.

“They have the ability to work with their safety committee on all safety projects, on improving offices, improving the operator’s booths, improving lunchrooms, change rooms or locker rooms.”

With International Women’s Day just days away, he said this may also be an opportunity to reinforce the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion by providing a more welcoming and accommodating workplace to prospective female employees.

Decades ago, people who were employed at sawmills or in the forest industry were predominately male and those workplaces tended to reflect that fact.

Larouche said the landscape has since changed.

He noted, as an example, women make up 10 percent of all employees at their Gogama sawmill, and 25 percent at their mill in Ear Falls.

“We strongly believe that we need to expand and get more diversified over the next few years and create a working environment to welcome an increased ratio of women in our facilities … in all of the positions that we can offer – operating jobs, management, supervisor and trades.

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