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UPDATED: Rentech puts Atikokan pellet plant up for sale

Heritage Fund demands repayment of grant for idled Wawa mill

ATIKOKAN, Ont. -- The U.S. company that owns a pellet plant in Atikokan is trying to sell the business. has been told that three prospective buyers are currently looking at the operation.

But plant manager Brad Sampson says there are no plans to shut down the plant, which continues to produce wood pellets for the Ontario Power Generation station near Atikokan.

About two dozen people work in the mill.

Atikokan Mayor Dennis Brown said Wednesday he had been aware of a "rumour" it was on the market, but he's not worried about the outcome.

"I'm still very optimistic that the plant's going to keep operating because they do have a contract with OPG for 10 years, and we're only on year three," Brown told  

He said he's sure that no matter who takes over the operation, it will continue to supply the generating station, "because that, too, is very crucial to Atikokan."

Rentech also owns a pellet plant at Wawa, but last February it announced it was idling that facility because of equipment and operational issues that would have required additional expenditures.

The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation is now asking the company to repay about $2.5 million in grant money as a result of that decision.

In a recent announcement about its third-quarter results, Rentech said it had received a Notice of Default from the provincial government's NOHFC, for not fulfilling the requirements of a conditional grant to start up the facility.

According to the same Rentech announcement, the Atikokan business "has separately complied with the requirements under its grant agreement" with the Heritage Fund Corporation.

It added, however, that "if the Atikokan company receives a notice of default and demand of payment," the payment under its grant would be $800,000.

The statement indicated that as of September 30, 2017, the company had recorded a liability relating to the NOHFC totalling $3.3 million. contacted Rentech's head office for clarification of its plans for Atikokan, but has not yet received a response.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle issued a statement saying the NOHFC "continues to work with the company to resolve the matter" of the default related to a $3 million grant that helped create 30 jobs in Wawa.

Gravelle said the NOHFC also gave Rentech $1 million to create 25 jobs at Atikokan, but the mill there continues to operate "and there is no action required with respect to this facility."




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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