Sunday, December 21, 2014

Resolute closing Quebec mill

MONTREAL—Resolute Forest Products says competition from a government-subsidized mill in Nova Scotia, higher operating costs, and falling demand have forced the closure of its Laurentide paper mill in Shawinigan, Que., affecting 275 workers.
The Montreal-based pulp, paper, and lumber producer told workers Tuesday that the facility that makes commercial paper will close about mid-October.

“We made every effort to find a way to improve the Laurentide mill’s performance,” said Resolute CEO Richard Garneau.
“Unfortunately, due to its cost structure and challenging market conditions, there is no economically viable option for the mill,” he noted.
While demand for specialty papers has decreased nearly 25 percent since 2009, Resolute has faced the restart of Pacific West Corp.’s mill in Port Hawkesbury, N.S. that produces 360,000 tonnes of paper.
That’s nearly double Laurentide’s capacity of 191,000 tonnes.
Pacific West paid $33 million for the paper mill, and it re-opened the end of 2012 with $124.5 million in provincial assistance during the next 10 years.
A Resolute spokesman said there was little workers in Shawinigan could do to prevent the mill’s closure.
“We’ve worked on making our organization as lean as possible . . . [but] it’s very difficult for even any type of concessions locally to make a difference,” he said in an interview.
“You’re talking about extreme circumstances.”
He added Quebec has high fibre costs and the mill is 126 years old.
The company laid off 111 employees in late 2012 after it permanently shut down a paper machine at the plant following a drop in demand.
Some affected paper workers could relocate to fill vacancies in other mills.
Resolute also hopes to open a third shift at its sawmill in La Tuque that would add about 36 additional jobs—if it can secure adequate lumber.
Paul Quinn of RBC Capital Markets said although the closure of Laurentide wasn’t expected, it isn’t surprising given the over-supply of specialty paper.
“I hadn’t heard it was imminent but you’ve got demand declines so obviously somebody’s got to take out something,” he reasoned.

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