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Union joins call for Ontario government to restart Fort Frances pulp mill


August 26, 2019
By P&PC Staff

Unifor has joined the call for the Ontario government to get involved in the efforts to re-start a shuttered pulp and paper mill that was recently sold by Resolute Forest Products to a development company.

“We’ve been working with the Town of Fort Frances and other key stakeholders since 2014 when the mill closed to explore new ownership and a re-starting of the mill,” says Stephen Boon, Unifor national representative, in a release. “Re-starting this mill would see 600 direct jobs restored by next year which would be a relief for the entire town. Ministers Rickford and Yakabuski and the province of Ontario must take the necessary steps to support this community.”

Riversedge Developments, a brownfield developer, now owns the mill site and, during the sale, signed agreements with Resolute that indicated the mill would not be restarted for pulp and paper operations. It is expected the mill will be demolished and the site repurposed. One of the potential reuses is for a cannabis processing facility.

The Town of Fort Frances has since submitted a request to the government to revoke Resolute’s Sustainable Forest Licence in the area – which covers the Crossroute Forest and its fibre supply to its Thunder Bay mill 350 kilometres away – and open it up to forestry companies that will bring jobs back to the area. The town is requesting the government overhaul the forest licence program into a community-driven one.

Resolute maintains that the no-competition clause is standard protocol.

On August 16, Greg Rickford, minister of energy, northern development and mines, issued a statement that he wants to find a solution that will result in bringing jobs back to the mill site.

He said he met with Resolute to discuss the potential for a new forest licence program on August 14.

“Forestry operators across Northern Ontario need more certainty and greater access to fibre to support growth in the sector moving forward,” Rickford said in his statement. “Our government will proceed with a new province-wide forestry strategy that will allow for more access to fibre from across the province, under a model that is sustainable and renewable, and supports good-paying jobs and a wide range of social, environmental and economic benefits.”