05/02/2012 04:08 EDT | Updated 07/02/2012 05:12 EDT

Bioenergy key to reopening Canfor's Radium sawmill

Canfor has begun the process of reopening its sawmill in Radium, B.C., and says bioenergy has been key for the company to get the operation up and running again.

Canfor's Radium mill was shut down in 2009 along with similar operations in Kamloops and Prince George, but the company is now spending $38 million to build a new planer and convert the mill to running on gas to bioenergy.

"Replacing the cost of propane to operate dry kilns is a significant part of this," said Canfor spokeswoman Christine Kennedy.

Planners are on site, working on the design of the new mill. Canfor will build a cogeneration plant that uses waste wood instead of propane to dry the lumber.

Canfor hopes to have the sawmill back up and running by early 2013, a relief to the hundreds of workers left unemployed when the mill shut down.

Mill to directly employ 170, another 170 indirectly

Mayor Dee Conklin said the closure devastated her town and forced families all over the Columbia Valley to move away or find work outside of the region.

"We really felt the downturn during the indefinite closure. The businesses felt it immediately," said Conklin.

"What's also happened is a fair number of husbands in families have gone up to Fort McMurray or down to the mines and that's been really, really tough on families."

The mill itself will directly employ about 170 people, and it's estimated another 170 spinoff jobs will be created as a result of the reopening.