Nova Scotia sawmill operators say their outlook after the closure of Northern Pulp is one of troubling uncertainties and, so far, few answers from the provincial government on how to replace a key customer.

Andrew Watters, general manager of the Groupe Savoie mill in Westville, N.S., says he has an inventory of wood that still has to be milled, and it's unclear how he'll sell wood chip byproducts that Northern Pulp has purchased in the past.

Watters met with his workers on Friday to tell them the future in 2020 is unclear, and wouldn't criticize them if they find other work.

Premier Stephen McNeil announced on Friday he would keep a pledge that Northern Pulp won't be permitted to continue piping its effluent into Boat Harbour, near Pictou Landing First Nation, after Jan. 31.

Within an hour, the company owned by Paper Excellence announced the closure of the mill in Abercrombie, N.S., and predicted the loss of thousands of forestry jobs.

Mark Baillie, general manager of Scotsburn Lumber Ltd. in Pictou County, said he's told his 96 employees he's seeking markets by Jan. 4 for the wood chips produced during the sawing of softwood lumber.

He said with potential clients away for the holidays it's a difficult time to find people who might want to buy the chips, and he's reached out to the premier's office asking for help.

Meanwhile, Tim Houston, leader of the opposition Progressive Conservatives, is criticizing the Liberal government for providing little information on how it will help address issues like the lost markets for the sawmills, or how a $50 million transition fund will operate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 23, 2019.

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