Is Pontiac’s forestry really dead? Davidson Mill announces it is game over!

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Sophie Demers
Local Journalism Initiative

DAVIDSON – At one time there were more than five mills operating throughout MRC Pontiac; now, with the recent closure and sale of the equipment at Jovalco, in Litchfield, and aside from the Commonwealth Mill in Rapides-des-Joachims, there are none.

Bruno and Hubert Saint-Cyr, owners of the Davidson mill since 2007, say they have been trying to get their mill back up and running since 2009 after shutting down in 2008 due to the difficult economic situation at the time. On August 16, the Saint-Cyrs announced they will no longer be going ahead with their plans to revive the saw mill.

The owners said they put forward a plan for a cogeneration plant powered by forest biomass which would use steam twice: once to heat kilns to dry lumber and again to turn a turbine to create electricity. The plan also included a Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) production plant and an aquaculture project. “This, paired with the Davidson sawmill, would have made the mill profitable and created jobs in the region,” stated Hubert Saint-Cyr.

According to the owners, the Ministère des ressources naturelles et des Forêts has refused to allocate a guaranteed supply (GS) (the rights to cut trees) which is necessary to obtain the raw materials needed to run the sawmill and other proposed projects.

“There was always something that got in the way of the Ministry providing the resources weneeded despite a sound business plan and the economic benefits the project would have brought to the area,” said Saint-Cyr. They have made the decision that the equipment will soon be dismantled, sold and moved elsewhere. The owners have not yet announced a decision about the future of the Davidson Industrial site.

Lower allocations due to woodland caribou?

The Forestry Ministry sent a letter to the Saint-Cyrs stating “….the Quebec government is currently developing a strategy for woodland and mountain caribou. The allowable cut assigned to the territories concerned by this strategy may be revised downward during the five-year period.”  Bruno noted that the forests they would get their GS from do not have caribou.

Martin Boucher, Director General for Groupement Forestier Pontiac, also stated that to hisknowledge there are no caribou in the Pontiac with the exception of the most northern extremities.  Bill Caine Junior, president of Commonwealth Plywood in Rapides-des-Joachims, also noted his frustration. “Over the years the government consistently reduced the wood allocation to the mill,” said Caine Jr. “When we reopened, they almost immediately reduced our allocated resources by 30%. There is no apparent plan on the part of the Ministry or the government to help the industry grow, here.”

“There are politicians whose job it is to set the priorities for forestry; they have to work toadvance the industry,” said Boucher. “We need to make sure when we put forward projects we can convince these people that they are sound. If projects are not accepted there are probably things that need to be changed or updated.”

Jane Toller, Pontiac’s warden, also commented on the situation:  “I’ve been working with Davidson for five years; unfortunately, they had a good opportunity to open a cogeneration plant but that was not their only plan. The owners were committed to re-opening the white pine sawmill which the government did not support. Their independent study showed it would cost much more to reopen the mill than the owners had originally proposed,” said Toller, adding, “I think there is potential for a new owner to come along and have new ideas.”

She also noted the Jovalco Mill may have a potential buyer from the current owner who bought it mainly for the equipment. “I am still optimistic about the forestry industry in Pontiac,” she declared.