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IT TAKES A COMMUNITY EFFORT TO RE-OPEN A MILL


August 1, 2010
By Pulp & Paper Canada

Nanaimo Forest Products and Mack-enzie Pulp, stand as proof that it can be done -an idled mill can be saved, but it takes a lot of people pulling in the same direction to make it happen.

Nanaimo Forest Products and Mack-enzie Pulp, stand as proof that it can be done -an idled mill can be saved, but it takes a lot of people pulling in the same direction to make it happen.

These two former Pope & Talbot mills in Nanaimo and Mackenzie, B.C., were idled when the company declared bankruptcy in 2008. One was bought by a group of employees and private investors, the other by an international pulp and paper company.

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It took the cooperation of many parties to get both mills up and running again. But one difference between the situation at the Eurocan mill and that of Nanaimo Forest Products and Mackenzie Pulp is that the two Pope & Talbot sites were closed as part of a bankruptcy proceeding. For Eurocan, its owners said, the “business fundamentals” dictated permanent closure.

In the case of Mackenzie Pulp, the list of those who helped to make the sale a reality is long. Worthington Industries bought the mill from receivership, but never reopened it and ceased paying workers in January 2009. The provincial government stepped in to pay workers and keep the mill warm during the winter so that pipes would not freeze and crack, releasing chemicals into the air and water. Mackenzie Pulp Mill Development Corporation preserved the mill’s physical capability to resume production. The provincial government and the District of Mackenzie consolidated and reduced the mill’s debt load.

The McLeod Lake Indian Band worked with the Ministry of Forests and Range to help secure the fibre needed to start the mill. And the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) negotiated a new collective agreement that enabled the mill to reopen with significant cost reductions.

For Nanaimo Forest Products, 200 mill employees invested in the mill, along with several private investors. The new owners attribute the mill’s ongoing success to a long-term fibre supply with Western Forest Products, a long-term marketing deal, a positive attitude among the worker/owners, and an entre-preneurial attitude.


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