Town given 90 days to find new mill buyer

Sam Odrowski

The Town of Fort Frances now has a little less than three months to find a new owner for the idle pulp and paper mill here.

An agreement was reached last Thursday between the town and Riversedge Development’s numbered company, 2670568 Ontario Limited, that settles close to $500,000 in unpaid taxes and allows any qualified buyer to access the mill and put forward an offer.

“The town has 90 days to try and flush out a buyer,” Mayor Caul said.

“We have been in contact with Rainy River Packaging, they are still interested in the mill.

“They’re trying to get things in order so they can feel comfortable about making an offer,” she added.

Rainy River Packaging has voiced interest in purchasing the Fort Frances Mill since December of last year and put forward an offer that was rejected, when Resolute Forest Products sold to 2670568 Ontario Limited in July.

Mayor Caul said the town is sending an advertisement out to several different companies that might be interested in starting up some form of wood production at the site.

She told the Times, prior to Rainy River Packaging stepping forward, other companies had expressed interest before facing roadblocks, and the town’s economic development officer has recently been in contact with two other parties interested in the mill.

“Now the restrictive covenant caused some issues and concerns for people who were trying to look into possibly purchasing it, so that will still have to be dealt with between the parties,” Mayor Caul noted.

The agreement between Resolute and 2670568 Ontario Limited prevents equipment inside the mill from being used to manufacture newsprint, coated or uncoated mechanical paper, recycled market pulp, kraft market pulp, and tissue paper.

It also says a new owner cannot discuss wood supply with the province, which is necessary to determine what areas of the forest wood can be harvested from.

However, local MPP Greg Rickford recently indicated that if a new forestry company comes to Fort Frances, wood fibre from a nearby forest will be made available.

“I was very pleased last week to see Minister Rickford. . . say in print that the wood will be allocated here if we have a buyer,” Mayor Caul enthused.

Moving forward, she said she’s hopeful for a positive outcome at the idle pulp and paper mill.
“As I said many times before, if a mill opens here it will create a lot more jobs than just a few small businesses will,” she reasoned.

“Our goal is to get more employment here and get more residents either moving to Fort Frances, staying here or coming back.

“That will increase our tax base and it will also increase revenue for the town,” Mayor Caul added.

Rainy River Packaging CEO Sean Twomey has said a restarted Fort Frances mill would generate approximately 330 jobs at the site and 342 forestry-related jobs in the district.

However, if the mill isn’t sold by the end of the 90-day window granted to the town, 2670568 Ontario Limited will move forward with redevelopment plans.

“We’ll have to wait and see and of course, we will be involved when any demolition permits are needed,” Mayor Caul noted.

“It will be up to the numbered company to decide what’s going to be done and hopefully they will take into consideration the town’s position and concern about what comes into the community.

“The most important thing to me if the mill doesn’t open . . . I want to make sure its possible for viable businesses to start there and I also want to make sure that site is completely cleaned up with not a piece of scrap metal or brick on it from anything that’s taken down or apart,” she added.

Riversedge Development’s partner, Rainy River First Nation, has said they are working with the company to determine the feasibility of a cannabis growing operation or casino/hotel/event centre at the mill site.