BRITISH COLUMBIA (From news reports) -- St. Stephen will lose 60 to 75 jobs by the end of the year because particleboard operations at the Arauco plant will be shutting down.
The announcement was made Wednesday by plant manager David Moffatt.
"It was a really difficult, a really difficult announcement," he said. "This operation has been in St. Stephen for almost 60 years. And we're really tightly knitted with the community."
The Fibrex side, which produces medium-density fibreboard, will remain in operation with around 120 jobs.
Moffatt said the company is offering company severance packages more broadly in an attempt to find voluntary departures.
That way, he said, some employees from the particleboard side of Arauco could be brought over to the Fibrex side.
Employees have three weeks to decide whether they want to take a voluntary severance package from the mill.
Moffatt said the mill is committed to paying employees until the end of the year regardless of when operations cease.
He said the operation was closing because of "the competitiveness of our platform here in St. Stephen and some high input costs."
The plant was older compared with other sites in North America, and costs related to wood and natural gas have made it more challenging to compete, the company said.
Allan MacEachern, mayor of the southwestern New Brunswick town of about 4,400, said he was shocked by the announcement and called it a great loss for the community.
"It's a big impact to our community," he said. "They're a huge employer."
He said he is committed to working with the mill and the affected employees in hopes they can find new work in St. Stephen.
MacEachern worked for the plant for 12 years in the late nineties, when it was called Flakeboard. He was an engineer on the Fibrex side.
Flakeboard was sold to the Santiago-based Arauco in 2012. At the time, St. Stephen had hoped the acquisition would mean more jobs for the town.
The mill has stopped operations until Monday to allow employees to process the news and figure out next steps.