Mill 65 per cent demolished

The Fort Frances paper mill is 65 per cent demolished. The rest of the demolition is expected to be completed by the spring of 2022.

Cody Vangel, chief building official and municipal planner, said there are four phases to the demolition: the paper mill, screen building, craft mill and biomass boiler. The town has given permits to conduct the first three phases of the demolition. No permits were issued for phase four.

“Based on their internal staging, the project has somewhat gone backwards,” Vangel said. “They started with phase three at the craft mill. They began some of the work there. There are some structures still standing on the craft side as they’re still working out some of the logistics on how they want to tackle them and bring them down.”

Vangel said the screen building close to Canada customs came down at a relatively quick pace. Now the contractor is working on phase one being the paper mill.

“Phase three, being the craft mill is partially underway. And they’re just working out some logistics on how to tackle the rest of the building,” Vangel added.

The Canadian National Demolition (CND), a privately owned company that provides decommissioning, demolition, asset recovery and environmental services to both private and public sectors, is the contractor hired by Riversedge to demolish the mill.

Jeff Norton, president and owner of the CND, said the project is complete except for the boilers and the precipitators. Norton said he has no specific date on when he will file a request to begin demolition of phase four.

Norton said they are sorting and shipping the scrap metal to a mill in Sault Ste. Marie, with about 25 to 20 truck loads leaving Fort Frances on weekly basis.

“All the loads are weighed right here on site,” Norton said. “This is done for two reasons, to ensure that the truck has its load on them and to ensure that the truck isn’t overloaded because if you don’t weigh them, you don’t know how much weight they have.”

Although the mill has been closed since 2014, demolition only started in November 2020 and Norton said it has been smooth sailing except for two cold weeks where his 24-member crew had to put working on hold.

Vangel said the town has a responsibility to protect taxpayers and on the Ontario building code, a demolition of this scale is required to be reviewed and signed off by an engineer.

“Under the building code there aren’t any inspections mandated for demolition, aside from the final inspection, but we certainly try and do a few more along the way just to keep ourselves up to date on how things are progressing,” Vangel said. “But ultimately, the demolition will be signed off by an engineer hired by the contractor.”

Vangel added that the mill demolition gets painted with a bad name because it was important to the community, and it is difficult to see it come down.

“We want to see the site demolished and cleaned up and future development would be great,” Vangel said. “But we’d like to remain optimistic that someday there’ll be future development on the property, and we can work with the property owners or whoever the developers may be.”

Norton said he and his team enjoy working in Fort Frances after they previously decommissioned the Rainy Lake building.

“I’d like to thank everybody there because they are good,” Norton said. “Everybody’s been really nice here.”