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Clock ticks down as Fort Frances reaches out for buyers for paper mill

The town has received no replies yet from potential purchasers.
Fort Frances mill summer
The former Resolute paper mill in Fort Frances stopped production in 2014 (Tbnewswatch file)

FORT FRANCES, Ont.— The Town of Fort Frances faces a looming deadline while it works hard to find a buyer for the former Resolute paper mill.

At the beginning of October it struck a deal with Riversedge Developments, the owner of the mill site, under which the company agreed to allow any potential qualified buyer to inspect the buildings and equipment, and to receive pertinent information about environmental issues.

The agreement is in effect until the end of December.

After reaching the accord with Riversedge, the town sent what Mayor June Caul describes as "an ad" to a number of companies it considers to be potential candidates to acquire the mill.

So far, the results of that pitch have been disappointing.

"We haven't heard from anybody," Caul told Tbnewswatch Friday.

The Mayor has now followed up with a personal letter to the same companies, which was mailed Friday.

"We'll see what happens," she said.

Caul believes there's an opportunity for a party to restart the mill despite ongoing concerns about access to a wood supply and the restrictive covenants that Resolute required when the mill was transferred to Riversedge.

"If they're interested in buying it, they'll get the wood, we're sure of that now," the mayor said.

Although Resolute continues to hold cutting rights in the nearby Crossroute Forest – which supplies its remaining mills in northwestern Ontario – the town is relying on statements by government ministers.

After a meeting in August, Councillor Doug Judson said the province is looking at the tools available to it to ensure the regional wood supply can support communities in the Rainy River district.

"For now, we're in a bit of a holding pattern," Judson said at the time.

Justus Veldman, who owns Riversedge, has said the mill has deteriorated since its closure in 2014, and needs hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs.

Caul disputes that the infrastructure is in as poor shape as Veldman portrays it to be.

"It could be fixed up, especially the Kraft mill, which is really not that old," she said Friday.

But the mayor conceded that if no buyer comes forward by December, "that would give the opportunity for [Riversedge] to start following up with whatever they want to do, basically."

Earlier this year, Riversedge raised the possibility of developing a cannabis production facility on the mill property.

The mayor said town officials have had no discussions with the company about any plans it may have to demolish the paper mill, adding "We'll just have to wait and see what happens once December 31st comes."

Last March, the town served notice to Resolute, prior to the mill's sale, that it would invoke a site plan control process if a demolition company took over the property.

"We will require any owner, prior to demolition, to provide the town with a line of less than $20 million, to ensure that the process is completed with minimal impact to our community."

The statement said town administration was also recommending a series of third-party professional studies with respect to historic, engineering and environmental aspects.

The town, it said, would take proactive steps to ensure the industrial sites are aesthetically pleasing, safe, healthy and functional after demolition.

"We understand that our needs to protect this community will cause a proponent to invest significant time and capital upfront...but we believe the best outcome for our community is to hold any redevelopment company to the highest standards," the statement said.


Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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