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The Belgrade stud mill will close permanently because of low market prices and lack of timber, according to an announcement Wednesday by owner Louisiana-Pacific Corp. That mill employs 137 people.

The closure will not affect operations at LP's Deer Lodge mill, where 270 people are employed, according to a company spokesman.

The Belgrade mill has been operated by LP Corp. since July 1992. Employees will continue to process the current log inventory and finished lumber will be shipped, but closure is expected to be final within the next 60 days, according to a company spokesman.

Company officials met with the 137 employees Wednesday and will continue to meet with them in the coming days under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. Local and state services for displaced workers will also be available. Employees will be eligible for severance and other benefits, and will be informed of any positions available within the L-P Corp., a spokesman said.

Despite cost-saving efforts of the employees in recent months, Wednesdayís announcement was unavoidable, the company says.

"Making decisions like this are not easy because of the impact on our employees and the community we have been a part of for many years," said David Dugan, LP corporate communications manager.

It has been a difficult couple of years for the lumber industry. Dugan said an over-supply of lumber products in the United States has been been exacerbated by imports from Canada and other countries pushing the market to 40-year lows. Difficulty in supplying the mill with timber also contributed to the closure.

Prior to Wednesday's announcement, Belgrade and most all of the L-P mills have taken down time due to market conditions.

"We will continue to evaluate all of our mills for down time," Dugan said. "During down time we try to complete capital improvements."

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