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Eden mill closed with job losses and environmentalists celebrate

Fritz Michelin photo courtesy of Rachel Mounsey

The largest employer in the NSW coastal town of Eden will remain closed for the foreseeable future after bushfire embers set the town’s woodchip mill and sawmill alight. Firefighters managed to contain the bushfires threatening the town last Saturday night, but a 100,000 tonne woodchip pile continues to burn, sending heavy smoke into the air making aerial firefighting in the region difficult. Source: Timberbiz

We’re still working to protect and salvage any timber and any other assets that we can, but it’s a very challenging scenario,” NSW RFS community liaison officer Marty Webster said.

The mill employs approximately 65 people out of the 3500-strong Eden township, according to Malcolm McComb, director of Allied Natural Wood Exports, that owns the mills.

Mr McComb said it was too early to tell the extent of the damage or what the repair bill will be.

“It’s too hard to say. There’s parts of the mill where we can’t get in and see what the damage is,” Mr McComb said.

He said that repairing the mill won’t be “that big a job”.

“The far bigger impact is how long we’re down for and what that does to the ripple economy of the area. We’ll be doing everything we can with the government to get people working again in one form or another,” Mr McComb said.

The fire has reignited tensions between the logging industry and environmentalists.

Earlier this week, Environment East Gippsland posted a photo of the timber mill on fire on Facebook with the caption: “YESSS!!! In all this horrific loss — some really good news! The Eden Chipmill is burning down – all buildings and infrastructure as well as the woodchip pile. A major cause of ecosystem collapse, loss of carbon stores, wildlife crisis, climate chaos, political corruption … over the past 50 years.”

The post has since been taken down.

Eden logging contractor Fritz Michelin called on the group celebrating the destruction of the mill to “use a bit of common sense”.

“I just hate it when they don’t show any sympathy that the chip mill’s gone, and they are tree huggers and animal lovers. But today … they don’t care about people being put out of work,’’ he said.

“Have a think about what’s happened,” he said.

“We have got the most restrictions on us here in Australia … (the mill leaves) no scar on the environment. You can see some logging that’s been done in the last couple of years but after that, three years later, you’ll drive out there and you won’t even know it’s been logged.”