A major commercial harbour and wood pellet plant may be in the works for the Township of Red Rock on the Lake Superior’s north shore.
Two subsidiary companies of Essar Port Global and Riversedge Developments of Sault Ste. Marie have signed a memorandum of agreement to design, build and operate a port facility at the site of the former Red Rock paper mill.
The 15-year agreement was signed on March 18 between the Port of Algoma, an Essar Port subsidiary, and North Port Canada, a subsidiary of Riversedge.
The Port of Algoma management would be responsible for overseeing all assessment and development of the dock facility.
The Port of Algoma is a newly created entity with huge plans to build a $120-million to $150-million regional port facility in the Sault to service both Essar Steel Algoma and Northern Ontario industries and manufacturing.
A statement by Anshumali Dwivedi, Port of Algoma CEO, indicates Red Rock could be logistically tied into the Sault harbour project.
"We are happy to be a part of the development of Red Rock and identifying it as a feeder port to the Port of Algoma. We are confident that given our expertise in developing world-class ports internationally, we can help Red Rock achieve its true potential."
Essar Ports Global Holdings is linked to the Essar Global Fund, an international investment fund with ownership in many industrial assets, including Essar Steel Algoma in the Sault.
Riversedge CEO Justus Veldman is best known for spearheading the redevelopment of the St. Marys Paper mill in the Sault and has tabled plans for a multi-use Canal District development in that city.
The Township of Red Rock sold the mill property to Veldman last year. The former Norampac linerboard mill, which had been closed since 2006, had been taken over by the municipality on tax arrears.
“Red Rock is interestingly positioned to realize significant opportunities for Northern Ontario,” said Veldman in a statement. “We’re fortunate to be working with Essar Ports and the town of Red Rock to make that happen.”
“It’s an amazing company,” said township CAO Kal Pristanski of Riversedge in an interview with Northern Ontario Business. “We’re really impressed with them. They’ve been working very diligently to make the site shovel-ready, which means taking down all the buildings.”
He estimates 60 per cent of the mill structures are demolished and expects the site to be levelled by summer.
Township officials have greeted visiting delegations who are interested in establishing a torrefied (black) wood pellet plant in Red Rock with aims on exports to European customers through the proposed port.
“We’re working with Justus whenever he brings somebody in,” said Pristanski. “If there were grant opportunities through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, council could support that.”
A new commercial wharf, once part of the mill operations, would have to be constructed, though no project timelines were announced, said Pristanski.
He estimates the wharf’s water depth at 28 feet – enough for a Seaway-draft freighter – but the dock has been reduced to a set of wood pilings.
“Red Rock still is a deep sea port,” he said. “Boats used to come here years ago from Europe to get paper.”
Some studies would have to done to ensure the shipping channel remains open, he said.
There is a partial rail spur leading down to the waterfront mill property, said Pristanski, but CN Rail is threatening to remove the track, having already lifted sections last Labour Day weekend.