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BC's Paper Excellence shuts down Nova Scotia pulp mill

Nova Scotia refuses to extend effluent ban, company responds with pink slips
A pulp and paper mill in Crofton was one of three mills added to Paper Excellence's stable last year when it bought out Catalyst Paper. | Submitted

More than 300 Nova Scotians are losing high paying pulp mill jobs, and Richmond-headquartered Paper Excellence is blaming the Nova Scotia government for its decision to shut down its Northern Pulp mill.

The B.C. headquartered company bought the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou Country in 2011 and invested $70 million in the mill.

But this week, the company announced it will shut the pulp mill down on January 31, and is now handing out pink slips.

In addition to 330 pulp mill employees, the company estimates thousands of workers in the logging industry that supplied the mill will also be affected.

The decision to shut the mill down follows an order by the Nova Scotia government that the company stop pumping pulp mill effluent into lagoons that drain into Boat Harbour as of January 31.

The Pictou Country First Nation has been fighting or years to stop effluent from going into the harbour.

In a press release, Paper Excellence blames the Nova Scotia government for moving goalposts on the environmental permitting of a proposed water treatment plant.

For decades, settling ponds have been used for pulp mill effluent, which then is discharged into Boat Harbour.

In 2015, the Nova Scotia government passed the Boat Harbour Act, which gave Paper Excellence until January 31, 2020 to stop using Boat Harbour for disposal of effluent.

In 2017, Paper Excellence proposed a new $130 million effluent treatment facility. But when the provincial government decided a full environmental assessment would be required for the proposed treatment facility, the company said it could not work within the timeline set out.

The environmental assessment would take two years, the company said, and it would take another two years to build the facility, should it be approved.

The company asked or an extension to the deadline to stop using the Boat Harbour. On January 22, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil announced there would be no extension, and Paper Excellence CEO Brian Baarda responded with an announcement the mill will shut down at the end of this month.

“It is disappointing that the Minister of Environment’s request for a full environmental assessment was not made many years earlier,” Baarda said in a press release. “It would have provided a definitive process and a more realistic timeline.

“Instead, the minister’s decision, combined with the Premier’s refusal to extend the deadline for the closure of Boat Harbour, is now resulting in the closure of Northern Pulp, the devastation of Nova Scotia’s forestry industry, loss of over 2,700 rural jobs, and significant impact to another 8,300 forestry jobs across Nova Scotia.”

Paper Excellence owns the Howe Sound, Mackenzie and Skookumchuck pulp mills in B.C. Last year, it added three more mills – in Crofton, Port Alberni and Powell River – when it acquired Catalyst Paper.

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