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Demolition of Resolute biomass boiler upsets Fort Frances councillor

Douglas Judson says investments of taxpayer dollars need better guarantees.
Fort Frances mill demolition (Supplied)
Demolition of the former Resolute mill at Fort Frances began in late 2020 (submitted photo)

FORT FRANCES — A town councillor in Fort Frances says the demolition of a biomass boiler at the former Resolute mill shows why more needs to be done to protect government investments in the private sector.

According to Douglas Judson, the Town of Fort Frances has issued a demolition permit for the steam-powered 54 megawatt co-generation facility that Resolute completed in 2009.

Ontario contributed almost $23 million to the $90 million project.

In 2014, after Resolute announced the mill's closure, the province sent the company a letter stating it had violated a condition of the grant that required the mill to operate. 

The government initially said the money had to be repaid.

Three years later, however, the parties signed a Settlement and Release Agreement in which Premier Kathleen Wynne's government acknowledged Resolute's efforts to find a buyer for the mill, the millions of dollars it had spent on maintenance during closure, and the investments it had made in its mills at Thunder Bay, Atikokan and Ignace.

Riversedge Developments purchased the mill assets in 2019 and began a staged demolition in 2020. 

Judson said the mill's fate was already sealed by restrictive covenants affixed to the land title by Resolute which effectively prevented a new owner from operating it as a mill.

"The biomass facility represents one of the single largest industrial investments in the Rainy River district, and it was made possible through taxpayer money. Less than 12 years later, it is being sold for scrap," he said in a statement.

"Where the availability of public forest resources is at stake...policies should ensure that economic handout are tied to licensing measures and concessions to ensure the long-term public benefit of these public resource and financial commitments," Judson added.  

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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