Mill working on clean-up, assets
With the last roll of paper coming off paper machine #5 at the end of January, the Resolute Forest Products mill here continues to work on asset protection, with no updates from the company likely until at least April.
Company spokesperson Xavier Van Chau told the Times last week that the focus right now is on clean-up and winterization of the mill.
“That’s where most of the focus is right now.”
Van Chau said that, as the company reported last month, the mill is trying to preserve assets during this extended market downtime.
“The reality is . . . throughout the first quarter, the groundwood specialty printing paper grades, the market conditions are poor for them,” he remarked.
“We haven’t seen the pick-up necessary to reconsider the market downtime that we have at the mill on that machine,” he added.
Van Chau clarified that about 150 employees were “provided notice” last month, not terminated.
“It’s not true to say that those employees are no longer working because they’ve been provided notice,” he stressed.
“In fact, they’re employed and are on-call until March 12, so none of those employees are no longer working for the company.
“In fact, they all continue to be employees.
“So between now and March 12, the employees that were provided notice continue to receive their regular wages and benefits, and continue to be on-call,” Van Chau said.
Meanwhile, about 60 staff, including stationary engineers, maintenance employees, salaried employees, and woodland employees, continue to work at the local mill and have not received notice.
“Those people continue to work at the mill,” Van Chau said.
“The salary employees are working together to identify opportunities to reposition the
facility,” he noted.
“The maintenance crew and the stationary engineers are working to do the clean-up, the site preservation, all of those efforts,” Van Chau added, noting the woodland employees continue to manage the fibre needs of the company.
Looking past March 12, Van Chau said company management hasn’t made any decisions regarding additional operational changes beyond what was announced in mid-January.
In response to a question about shutting down the steam system at the mill in mid-April, Van Chau said that by then, the weather should start to warm up.
He added the company has to continue to reassess what is necessary to protect the assets in order to be in a position to eventually restart them.
“Our focus is ensuring safety of the site, that environmental obligations are met, and that the assets are protected,” he reiterated.
Van Chau also stressed the company continues to focus on repositioning the mill.
“What we’re looking at is what can be done with the pulp assets? What can we do with the energy assets at the facility?
“What are we doing in that regard and is there any support we can get?” he remarked.
The price of kraft pulp is up right now—and that’s why Resolute wants to find a way to reposition the pulp assets of the facility, Van Chau said.
“That’s where we’re at right now,” he remarked. “We’ve got 150 employees who have been provided notice, and as you know in the community, that’s after idling other machines.
“That’s been a huge impact and we recognize that in the community, and we’re trying to find solutions for the mill,” he pledged.