Mill, First Nations, sign MOU to create forestry jobs in Merritt

By Greg Fry
February 21, 2018 - 10:37am

KAMLOOPS — An important step has been taken to ensure the future of the forestry sector in Merritt.

The Lower Nicola Indian Band Development Corporation, Stuwix Resources Ltd and Aspen Planers have announced they've signed a long-term memorandum of understanding agreement that sets out a framework for negotiating business agreements related to the parties timber and sawmill interests.

Chief Aaron Sumexheltza says it was necessitated by the Tolko mill closure in Merritt in December 2016 which cost the community more than 200 jobs.

"So, what we felt is that we needed to support, and I needed to support our band, in creating jobs and wealth and training," he says. "We're also as First Nations in the Nicola Valley, residents of the Merritt area. It was really difficult on everyone when the mill closed down over a year ago and we felt that this was a real opportunity to make a statement and say we want to work with industry and we want to work with the local mill in Merritt."

The new agreement will provide Aspen additional timber supply needed to maintain its operations while enabling the First Nations community to support its own development.

"This is really a win-win for the local First Nations, the local community, the local mill industry and its imperative after another mill closed down over a year ago."

Sumexheltza feels the MOU will be instrumental in job creation.

"One of the things that we're going to be doing with Aspen and Stuwix on a regular basis is sitting down on an at minimum quarterly basis and looking at how we can create value-added opportunities and get the most out of our resources. So, we need to be collaborative, creative and look at the different opportunities we have and make good business decisions moving forward to create good jobs."

"Aspen has long been proactive in working closely with First Nations that lie within or near our timber supply areas to provide important economic opportunities," adds Aspen's CEO Surinder Ghog. "This agreement underscores the commitment of Aspen and its First Nations communities to work together to create regional employment and economic opportunties."

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