Paper Excellence announced Thursday it is permanently closing its Mackenzie Pulp Mill. About 250 people were put out of work last June when the company curtailed operations due to market impacts caused by COVID-19 and lack of local economic fibre. Those job losses are now permanent.
Since acquiring the Mackenzie mill in 2010, Paper Excellence has invested more than $360 million in the facility, the company said in a statement issued Thursday. However, despite those investments “the facility’s small production capacity and the ongoing lack of local economic fibre meant the mill could not be globally competitive. Paper Excellence looks forward to the BC government’s continued focus on competitive mid-term timber supply and modernization of forest policy while ensuring an equitable distribution of access to forest tenures to support the diversity and competitiveness of the sector and the production of high value products.”
Where possible, Mackenzie employees have been relocated to other Paper Excellence facilities across Canada. Meanwhile, the terms of the collective agreement with UNIFOR Local 1092 will be respected and severance payments made.
Gaseous, liquid and solid chemicals as well as residues have been safely removed from the Mackenzie mill site. Currently, a small team of employees is providing around the clock monitoring while the development of a long-term remediation plan begins and the company explores ways to repurpose the facility in the future.
Paper Excellence is, however, restarting one of the paper machines in its Powell River mill in early May, investing with and establishing jointly beneficial partnerships with First Nations, and making a $13 million capital investment in the Port Alberni facility to diversify into higher-value markets. Furthermore, Paper Excellence is working towards making a significant capital investment in its Crofton facility and restarting its facility in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
Close to 1,000 people rallied in Mackenzie in August, 2019 with the theme “Our Logs, Our Jobs,” protesting the fact that much of timber harvested in the area is processed out of the area.
“We do have a robust fibre supply,” Mackenzie Mayor Joan Atkinson told members at the rally. “It is time for all us to work collaboratively and identify what is not working and what is needed to fix it.”