Paper Excellence closes mill in Powell River putting 206 out of work

Mill workers fear closure will become permanent as the company explores other options to make use of the facility’s infrastructure.

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Paper Excellence is shutting down the Catalyst Paper tisk w at   mill in Powell River indefinitely putting 206 people out of work, deeming the facility “not viable” with global paper markets shrinking and prices falling, the company said.


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The mill had just restarted operations in May after an almost year-long shutdown due to COVID-19 impacts and a malware attack on company computer systems but is now enduring “significant ongoing financial losses.”

“We restarted it in May of this year very, very hopeful we could make a go of it,” said vice-president Graham Kissack. “But despite (the workforce’s) heroic work, it’s just been not enough to clear the bar” financially speaking.

A pulp-and-paper mill has operated on the site since 1912, but paper prices are weak in a market that is shrinking, Kissack said.

The Powell River mill had also lost core North American customers during the prolonged shutdown in 2020 and ’21 and had to search “further afield internationally” to replace them, where “prices tend to be weaker and the freight costs are higher to get there,” he added.


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Employees at the mill, which was recently renamed with the Tla’min-language word tisk w at  (pronounced TEES-kwat), “kind of (saw it coming),” considering that all of its product was being shipped to China in the middle of a global shipping crisis.

“But, it’s one thing to see it coming and another thing to let it hit you in the face,” said Bill Spence, president of Unifor Local 76, which represents machine operators and tradespeople at the mill.

“I hope there are other products coming that will give people some work,” Spence added, but “in the meantime, the government’s got to put their money forward for forest renewal, bridging to retirement and all those things that they promised a month ago and have done nothing about.”


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Forests Minister Katrine Conroy said in a statement that government will offer workers skills training, short-term employment opportunities and employment assistance, as well as “meet with industry leaders to discuss future economic development opportunities on the site.”

Kissack said the mill’s infrastructure, which includes a deepwater port, access to fresh water, a modern wood-waste-fired biomass power boiler capable of producing electricity and modern wastewater treatment system, has potential for other uses but it’s too soon to list likely contenders.

Spence said hydrogen production is one rumour he heard, but “actual to make paper, our guys figure we’re never making paper again, they just haven’t said it yet,” which will be a considerable blow to the whole community.


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“It’s been the major employer in Powell River for years, so that it suddenly shuts down for who knows how long, it will affect the town big time.”

Spence said the mill’s tradespeople, including millwrights, instrument mechanic’s and electricians, will easily be able to find new jobs, but that will mean leaving Powell River for many of them.

The company said it will offer employees opportunities to fill jobs at its four other mills in B.C. “where possible.”

Cantor Corp. on Thursday announced it will suspend production at its Northwood Pulp mill in Prince George for at least two weeks and its Taylor mill near Fort St. John for at least four weeks.

Elsewhere in B.C., West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. announced it would shut down one pulp mill in Quesnel for 16 days and cut production by two-thirds at another for two weeks due to shipping interruptions, which will result in 220 layoffs.

Canfor Corp., on Thursday, announced it will suspend production at its Northwood Pulp mill in Prince George for at least two weeks and its Taylor mill near Fort St. John for at least four weeks.

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