In this July 29, 2015, file photo, Terry Theriault exits his delimber while working to in the field off the Golden Road. Credit: Ashley L. Conti / BDN

Maine’s logging and lumber industry is seeing significant losses after an explosion at one of the state’s largest mills and market losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Business in Maine’s lumber industry has declined up to 40 percent after an explosion at a Jay mill in April and a reduction in paper use during the pandemic, Professional Logging Contractors of Maine director Dana Doran told the Sun Journal.

In April, a huge explosion rocked the Androscoggin Mill in Jay, scattering wood pulp across the surrounding area. Nobody was directly injured in the blast — which destroyed the mill’s pulp operation — but mill owners Pixelle Speciality Solutions laid off nearly 200 workers in the six months since the blast.

Staff reductions came as the mill transitioned from manufacturing paper rather than pulp. Staff were able to restart two paper machines only a week after the explosion.

Doran told the Journal that the Jay explosion was another serious blow for an industry already struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many mills in Maine export to Asian markets that have retracted since the virus spread.

Paper use among Americans has also seen a steep decline since the beginning of the pandemic as more Americans work from homes and offices become increasingly digitized.

A report from the American Forest and Paper Association in September found that shipments of uncoated free sheet paper — a type of paper containing little wood pulp often used in publishing and or office use — was down 19 percent in September 2020, compared with that same month last year.

A report by the University of Maine found the forest products industry had a total economic impact of $9.8 billion in 2014, representing 6 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.

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