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Northern Pulp Officials Say They Plan To Reopen Nova Scotia Mill In The Future

The Northern Pulp Mill in Abercrombie Point, N.S. Image: Ann Baekken via Flickr.

HALIFAX – The general manager of the recently shuttered Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County says the mill’s parent company plans to reopen it in the future.

Bruce Chapman made the comments at Forestry Nova Scotia’s annual general meeting at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel in Halifax Wednesday.

He said a lot would still need to happen before the mill can start running again – including an environmental assessment – but that management remains “committed to Nova Scotia,” and is working with the provincial government to get everything in order.

“We need to receive the terms of reference first,” Chapman told Huddle. “But our plan right now is to work through the environmental assessment … and reopen the mill in the future.”

Terri Fraser, the technical manager at Northern Pulp, explained that the company is waiting for the provincial government to say exactly what needs to be in a new, stand-alone environmental assessment it requires from the company.

Those will come in the form of the “terms of reference” Chapman mentioned, which Fraser said she expects to see soon.

Once the new terms of reference are finalized, Fraser said, it could still take years to get all the studies, permits, and permissions in place to get the mill going.

She said Paper Excellence, the company that owns Northern Pulp, is confident in the scientific assessment of its experts. But that the government still hasn’t provided enough clarity about what it wants to see in an environmental assessment.

“We have demonstrated we can meet the Canadian standards. It’s unclear what the standards are in Nova Scotia,” she said. “We don’t know how many yards we are away from the goal line”

“We want to remain in Nova Scotia, but the final terms of reference must bring clarity to this process.”

Until that clarity comes, Northern Pulp will sit in what Champan called a “safe and environmentally sound hibernation”

“Imagine putting your cottage to bed, and multiply that by a million, and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.

The mill produced its last bale of pulp on January 12. Most of its 350 workers have already been laid off, but Chapman said a small crew remains working to finish the “hibernation” process.

Paper Excellence shut the Northern Pulp mill down in January after failing to meet a deadline set by the provincial government to stop pumping its byproducts into nearby Boat Harbour.

The company had planned a new effluent treatment facility that would allow it to meet the government’s environmental requirements. But  Environment Minister Gordon Wilson rejected an environmental assessment the company provided, saying the science wasn’t sound enough.

Paper Excellence was then forced to shut down the mill after Premier Stephen McNeil rejected its request for an extension to make the necessary changes to its report.

“The company has had five years and any number of opportunities to get out of Boat Harbour, and at this point we’re nowhere close to that,” McNeil said at the time. “That’s not on us. That’s the decision the company has made.”

Fraser said McNeil’s announcement was “a decision we were not expecting,” one that halted substantial planning, and stopped the company issuing contracts to start building a new effluent treatment plant.

“We were to the point this spring of issuing tenders,” Fraser said in a presentation on February 12. “We were ready, we were expecting a decision, and we were expecting to let these contracts go this spring.”