FORT FRANCES — Riversedge Developments says it is exploring the establishment of "large-scale" cannabis production on the former Resolute Forest Products pulp and paper mill property.
The announcement is the company's first public statement about its plans since it acquired the site from Resolute in a deal that was concluded last month.
Fort Frances Mayor June Caul said the town would welcome a cannabis industry but she worries it would make it even harder to get the mill restarted.
In a statement, Riversedge said the property has a number of advantages which make it competitively positioned for large-scale cannabis production.
It cited "the cheapest power in the province, water intake permits, and wastewater treatment capacity, coupled with low-pressure biomass generated steam and the free (carbon dioxide) it generates."
Riversedge said the Rainy River district also offers a skilled labour pool.
According to the company, it is working with "world-renowned" cannabis production partners "that can put the site's infrastructure, assets and human resources back to work."
The statement referred to its efforts to attract alternative growth industries for the property and its work to overcome what it described as "the volatility" of the pulp and paper market.
However, Caul expressed skepticism in an interview Tuesday.
"There's been no contract that we know of in any form. I believe that this was something that was put out this morning because they basically had a pretty good idea of what was going to be happening here."
Caul was referring to a news conference where town representatives lambasted Resolute and Riversedge for restricted covenants on the property title that was registered in July.
The town maintains the covenants are meant to block any return of pulp or paper production in Fort Frances.
The mayor said even if a cannabis operation were set up, it would use only a small portion of the property, but at the same time would "completely prevent" the possibility a new buyer could restart the mill in the future.
"It would even make it easier for them to tear down the rest of it," Caul suggested.
She said she's heard a cannabis facility might create 250 jobs, far short of the "hundreds and hundreds" of higher-paying jobs required to run and feed the mill.
Riversedge bills itself as a restorative development company specializing in the integrated revitalization of industrial properties.