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Ministry responds regarding waiver of $23 million loan

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Earlier this year, a Fort Frances municipal councillor requested information from the province about waiving the repayment of a $23 million loan that was given to Resolute Forest Products for the local mill.

The funding was designated for the construction of a bio-mass boiler at the mill, which was completed, and the loan was given shortly before the mill shut down in 2014.

Minister of Natural Resources John Yababuski responded on Thursday and indicated that under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, he's unable to disclose the details around the agreement made with Resolute.

The reason behind the information being withheld is its potential to reveal financial and commercial information that was supplied to the ministry in confidence.

The minister's response came after several followups from Coun. Douglas Judson who originally requested the information through a letter in July.

He initially wrote to the ministry to inquire about the terms and conditions placed on the forgiveness of the $23 million loan that was given to Resolute and said he's disappointed by the province's response.

The ministry extended the deadline to repay the loan nine times over three years before ultimately allowing Resolute to keep the money, right before the 2018 provincial election.

Now Resolute has sold the mill to Riversedge Developments and has been able to walk away with the $23 million that was designated for Fort Frances.

Coun. Judson has said he's upset no conditions were placed on the loan to protect the viability of the mill, which was an incredibly important part of the local economy for just shy of a century.

The information Coun. Judson inquired about was discovered through Resolute's quarterly filings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Yakabuski said in his response to Coun. Judson that he understands the town's objectives to secure an operational future for the mill and hopes its current owner, Riversedge Developments works closely with the community in that effort.

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