Idled Chetywnd pulp mill restarts for production

Wednesday, Apr 22, 2015

There’s some good news for the town of Chetwynd on the jobs front, with the pending May 1 reopening of a pulp mill that was shut down in 2012.

Paper Excellence, owned by the Dutch subsidiary of an Indonesian conglomerate –  Sinar Mas Group – has been quietly reactivating the former Tembec pulp mill, which closed down in September 2012.

The Chetwynd mill is one of four B.C. pulp and paper mills that Paper Excellence has bought in recent years.

Paper Excellence did not return calls to Business in Vancouver, but the union that represents mill workers in Chetwynd confirmed the company is working towards restarting the pulp mill May 1.

“We believe the deadline probably will be closer to the middle of May, but they’re still announcing May 1 to all our people,” said Scott Doherty, assistant to the president of Unifor.

Paper Excellence, headquartered in Richmond, bought the mill last year. It was originally expected to restart last summer.

“They experienced a bunch of unexpected capital expenditures that they had to do to restart the mill,”Doherty said. “There were some parts that needed to be ordered. That’s the reason for the delay in restarting.”

Doherty said most of the unionized workforce has, in fact, been working since last year doing cleanup, maintenance and getting the mill ready to go into operation. He said between 57 and 65 workers have been working full-time. Once the mill ramps up, he said it will employ close to 100 workers. The average pulp mill worker earns $75,000 a year.

Chewtynd experienced significant job losses last year when two coal mines closed down. Last year, Walter Energy closed two of its coalmines in Chetwynd and another in nearby Tumbler Ridge. Fortunately, many of the labour skills are transferable.

“It (the pulp mill) shut down several years ago and many of the workers went off to the coalmines,” said Chetwynd Mayor Merlin Nichols. “Now the coalmines have shut, many of the workers have gone back to the pulp mill.”

In addition to the Chetwynd mill, Paper Excellence also owns operating pulp mills in Mackenzie, Howe Sound (Port Mellon), and Skookumchuck in the East Kootenays.

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