Nova Scotia leader reacts to NewPage mill closure

Posted Aug. 24, 2011, at 7:05 p.m.

SAINT JOHN, New Brunswick — Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter said the province will help forest contractors affected by the closure of the Point Tupper Mill in Port Hawkesbury find new markets.

The paper mill, owned by American corporation NewPage, announced on Monday it was closing the doors of its Cape Breton plant indefinitely, cutting 600 mill jobs and stranding 400 contract workers who depend on the mill for employment.

NewPage said in a statement the closure was because a slump in the paper market, the high Canadian dollar and steep energy fees had made the mill unprofitable for more than a year.

It also carries $3.5 billion in debt, and last week warned it may have to file for bankruptcy.

NewPage also operates a paper mill in Rumford, Maine, where it employs about 750 people.

The premier met with local leaders in Port Hawkesbury on Wednesday to discuss a woodlands operation project among other possible ways to salvage the NewPage mill from vacancy.

Dexter said the province will have a plan in place by Sept. 9 to help woodland contractors find a new market for their wood fiber within Nova Scotia.

“They’ll be able to keep up and running,” he said on the phone.

Andrew Fedora, executive director of the Federation of Nova Scotia Woodland Owners, said the forestry contractors who maintain small woodlots rely heavily on industrial contracts such as NewPage.

If they can’t find new markets, he said most likely will leave to seek work out west. Fedora said this could have heavy financial and environmental fallout for the province’s small woodlot owners.

“Landowners won’t be able to harvest their wood, let alone market it,” he said.

Dexter said the province was “committed” to looking at obstacles facing the mill.

Among them is the cost of energy. The Ohio-based company listed steep energy fees as a contributing factor to the Canadian mill’s unprofitable year.

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