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New mill

A new sawmill is expected to create 90 more jobs in the Atikokan area. Officials with Resolute Forest Products made the announcement Thursday at a media conference at the Valhalla Inn in Thunder Bay.
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Richard Garneau made an announcement in Thunder Bay that a new sawmill will be constructed in Atikokan. (Jeff Labine, tbnewswatch.com)

A new sawmill is expected to create 90 more jobs in the Atikokan area.

Officials with Resolute Forest Products made the announcement Thursday at a media conference at the Valhalla Inn in Thunder Bay.

Construction of the new sawmill is scheduled to begin in the spring and completed sometime in 2014. The site for the project is also expected to be announced in the next few weeks.

The capital cost of the project is estimated at $50 million.

Atikokan Mayor Dennis Brown said the announcement will bring new hope to his community.

“With this announcement today we’re back in the mill business,” Brown said. “We’ll have two mills in the Atikokan area. When the two mills closed down in 2008, there was over 300 direct jobs lost. Most of those people had to move away or go elsewhere for work. Now some of them will be able to go back.”

Atikokan has faced a number of challenges over the years. Brown said those challenges began in 2005 when the province announced it was going to close the coal-fired plants.

The news devastated the town and with the help of MPP Bill Mauro (Lib, Thunder Bay – Atikokan) they were able to keep the plants going with wood biomass, he said.

Richard Garneau, president and chief executive officer of Resolute, said they looked at wood supply and distance as major factors when choosing Atikokan as the location for the new sawmill.

He said it always takes a long time to have a plan like this come to fruition.

“It was something we really had in mind but we didn’t know where,” he said. “It only happened within the last few months.”

Resolute will have three modern sawmills in the region once the Atikokan project is completed and the upgrading to the Ignace facility is finished. Besides producing lumber, the sawmills will also contribute to the supply of residual chips.

Garneau said they also looking to reposition the currently idled pulp mill in Fort Frances.

The condensing turbine project was expected to be running by last fall but experience some delays. Garneau said they expected to have it started up within a few weeks.

He added that they have a new manager for the Thunder Bay pulp and paper mill, who started about a month.