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Northern Pulp closure would eliminate 2,700 jobs, says Unifor study


August 7, 2019
By P&PC Staff

August 7, 2019 – Unifor, the union representing workers at Paper Excellence’s Northern Pulp mill, has commissioned a study that indicates 2,700 jobs would be lost across the province if the mill closes. 

The Abercrombie, Nova Scotia–based Northern Pulp has been ordered by the province to stop diverting its effluent into the heavily polluted Boat Harbour by January 31, 2020. In order to keep operating, the mill must find an alternative way to dispose of its effluent.

Premier Stephen McNeil has stated that the government will not extend the deadline.

Halifax-based consulting firm Gardner Pinfold conducted Unifor’s study, which found that Northern Pulp is a key player in rural Nova Scotia, creating a significant number of jobs in typically high-unemployment areas. The mill spends $279 million annually, with most remaining in Nova Scotia. 

A supply chain of 1,379 companies support the mill operation and could be adversely affected or forced to close themselves should operations at Northern Pulp cease, even temporarily. Among them are several sawmills and forest harvesting businesses.

The mill supplies more than 30 per cent of the roundwood to major sawmills in Nova Scotia, and purchases over 90 per cent of chips produced in the province. It’s also one of the largest shippers at the Port of Halifax, sending 50 trucks of kraft pulp to the port on weekdays.

“We all know Boat Harbour must close,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor president, in a press conference on Wednesday morning. “Our job now is to find a way forward that accomplishes that and supports not just the 230 Unifor jobs at Northern Pulp, but the 2,700 full-time jobs in Nova Scotia that rely on that mill.”

Northern Pulp’s proposed replacement plan includes a new effluent treatment facility constructed on Northern Pulp property. A 15.5-kilometre water pipe would deliver treated effluent to Caribou Harbour, in the Northumberland Strait. The mill is currently working to amend its application with additional information required by the province.


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The plan has been criticized by environmental and fisheries groups in Nova Scotia such as Friends of the Northumberland Strait, who say the bloom of treated effluent coming out of the new pipeline would still remain a threat not only to the environment, but also the livelihoods of the local fishermen.

Dias is requesting that the province approve Northern Pulp’s plan immediately in order to avoid even a temporary shutdown, and to allow Northern Pulp more time to submit the additional information while construction is underway.  

“The closure of Northern Pulp would cause economic hardship for hundreds of families in rural Nova Scotia,” says Bob Fraser, president of Gardner Pinfold. “An investment exceeding a billion dollars would likely be required to replace the economic impact of the mill.”

The mill currently employs more than 300 people, 230 of which are represented by Unifor. 

Read the full economic impact report for Northern Pulp.