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New Fort Frances mill owner has “highest and best use” redevelopment plans

Riversedge Developments CEO promises open dialogue, “awesome” news for northwestern community

The new owner of the former Fort Frances pulp and paper mill is promising a “highest and best use” for the industrial site and the 300-acre land package he’s acquired in the northwestern Ontario community.

Justus Veldman, CEO of Riversedge Developments, said his group will be issuing a press release over the next few days with the details of the transaction and a soon-to-be-announced development partnership.

“Everybody should know that is a good thing,” said Veldman in a phone interview this week.

Veldman is promising a thorough engagement process through community open houses “where the public can ask pointed questions directly at us.”

Earlier this week, the Town of Fort Frances revealed Riversedge had acquired the former pulp and paper operation. The sale price was not disclosed.

After shuttering the mill in 2014, the Montreal-headquartered forestry giant indicated last spring that it was looking to select a brownfield site redeveloper after it ended talks with Rainy River Packaging – a private consortium championed by the town – which was seeking to restart the mill with s new paper products line.

Resolute said in March if the property is to be restored to manufacturing status, it will be a decision made by the incoming site redeveloper.

The local municipal council has indicated it very much wishes to see the mill buildings kept intact, with a new operator running the site and drawing on Crown fibre from the nearby Crossroute Forest.

The mayor of Fort Frances, June Caul, is viewing the arrival of Riversedge with a great deal of trepidation, given the company is a brownfield site redeveloper.

Veldman didn’t dismiss the possibility of restarting the mill as a forest products operation, if there is fibre available. But he described comments uttered by Mayor Caul as being “pretty off.”

“Hopefully you can wait and get the real truth because people are getting anxiety over nothing, especially that the news is actually quite awesome on what we’re working on, and the mayor knows that.” 

Veldman said Fort Frances residents can’t necessarily expect a return of a pulp and paper operation – given what’s happened to that sector in the last decade – but he promised his proposed development will “100 per cent’ include some form of value-added forestry operation, with more to come.

He hinted there is an opportunity to restart the mill’s biomass energy generator.

“The biomass is obviously a great community asset,” he said. “The paper mill needs to be looked at to see what’s viable, what’s not viable.”

Veldman confirmed what a Resolute Forest Products spokesman said earlier this week that their upcoming announcement will involve government officials and a First Nation partner.

“That’s the objective.”