Montreal’s Resolute Forest Products made a not-so-shocking decision this week to permanently close its mothballed Fort Frances pulp and paper mill.
The company blamed the move on an “extended period of market-related outage on its remaining paper machine.” The kraft pulp mill and another paper machine have been idled since November, 2012.
"We tried hard to find a way to reposition these assets, particularly the pulp mill,” said company president-CEO Richard Garneau in a statement. “But unfortunately, due to end product markets, the mill's operational configuration and its cost position, we've concluded that there was no economically viable option for the pulp and paper operations at Fort Frances.”
But the company said it’s looking for ways to continue operating the mill’s biomass boiler and the power-producing steam turbine.
Resolute said affected employees will be considered for jobs at other operations.
The company has big plans to build a wood pellet plant at its Thunder Bay sawmill, construct a new sawmill in Atikokan, and refurbish its shuttered sawmill in Ignace.
Unifor national representative Stephen Boon called the news “a final major blow” to the northwestern Ontario community after the union made concessions in 2010 on wages, benefits, and future pension benefits in order to help the insolvent paper maker restructure itself.
"We all hoped these difficult employee sacrifices, the abundance of quality wood fibre, and this mill's ability to produce most of its own power would encourage Resolute to finally step up and make the necessary capital investment to re-position the Fort Frances site specifically related to the kraft mill."
In a release, Boon said the workforce was actually terminated March 12 and the union is busy working to ensure that its members are provided with proper severance rights, pension grow-in enhancements. and retraining opportunities.
Boon said he expects Resolute to make good on its commitment to provide new job opportunities at these other soon-to-be-opened new operations.