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High methane gas levels shut down B.C. mill on site where blast killed two

A View of Lakeland Sawmill explosion site seen from a helicopter in Prince George, B.C., Tuesday, April 24, 2012.

Brent Braaten/The Canadian Press

High levels of methane gas have shut down a Prince George, B.C., planer mill at the site of an explosion that killed two workers and injured two dozen others in April.

Lakeland Mills spokesman Greg Stewart said Friday that company tests detected the methane and prompted a shutdown of the recently reopened planer mill and closure of the mill energy system, which provides heat to some area businesses.

Twenty-eight planer mill employees, who have only been back to their jobs since late May following the blast at the adjacent sawmill on April 24, are out of work again, he said.

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Mr. Stewart said the company had been conducting soil and air tests since the explosion, and that no methane has been discovered in air samples.

"We believe it's better to be safe than sorry," he said. "We are acting now to ensure the safety of our employees and will be conducting further tests in the coming week to understand how these findings will apply to our property."

Mr. Stewart said Prince George city and fire department officials say the methane discovery did not pose a danger to people working or living nearby.

The Lakeland sawmill explosion and a blast in January at the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake have been the subject of intense investigations, but their causes have not been determined.

Two workers and about a dozen others were injured in the Burns Lake incident.

The B.C. government ordered all sawmills in the province to undergo extensive dust cleanups after speculation arose that fine dust associated with milling pine beetle-killed wood could be explosive.

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