White Birch Paper idles Bear Island newsprint mill
March 12, 2019 – White Birch Paper's Bear Island newsprint paper mill in Virginia will be idled effective immediately as it awaits conversion to a linerboard facility.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the Hanover County mill will stop production for the time being, affecting 140 workers. The mill was capable of producing about 240,000 tonnes of newsprint per year.
Cascades acquired the mill in July 2018, at which time White Birch Paper leased the mill back and announced plans to operate the once-idled mill as a newsprint facility until it was ready for conversion to a recycled paper products plant. Cascades plans to invest $275 to $300 million to make the necessary upgrades, with a reopening targeted for 2021.
"The idea and attempt to keep the employees of Bear Island active through the mill's transition in ownership and grade production has come to an unfortunate and premature end," says Christopher Brant, president of White Birch Paper, in a statement issued to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
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Brant pointed to U.S. trade actions as one of the reasons it was a challenge to keep the mill open. "We walked into this project believing that the U.S. trade actions surrounding the uncoated groundwood paper business made the mill’s output a necessity for customers in the U.S. market for the two years planned," says Brant in the White Birch statement. "A challenging restart of the mill and zero-tariff environment have forced us to weigh the viability of continuing production amidst waning market support for the mill and the perceived advantages it has to offer."
A spokesperson for Cascades says the mill will try to hire back some of the staff once the facility is ready.
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