Fort Frances wants Resolute Forest Products' harvesting licence revoked: Municipality argues non-compete agreement scuttles plans to attract new forestry manufacturers to mill site.

AuthorRoss, Ian
PositionNorthwestern Ontario

The Town of Fort Frances is calling on Queen's Park to pull Resolute Forest Products' licence to harvest wood on the Crossroute Forest.

In an Aug. 13 news conference, Mayor June Caul called out the Montreal-headquartered paper giant for its "arrogance" in attempting to "monopolize" control of the nearby Crown forest. She wants the province to cancel the sustainable forest licence (SFL) granted to the company.

After town officials learned of Resolute's imposition of a non-competition agreement on the new owner of the dormant pulp and paper mill, they want the province to step in and transfer Resolute's share of wood in the Crossroute to new investors who will restart operations at the plant, closed since 2014.

"It appears Resolute thinks they own our forests," said Caul, reading a prepared statement inside council chambers.

They're wrong. The forests of our district belong to the people of Ontario, to our communities, not a Quebec-based multi-national corporation.

In July, the municipality learned the mill had been sold to a numbered company affiliated with River-sedge Developments, a Waterloo-based brownfield redeveloper.

The company is headed by Justus Veldman, who has been involved in repurposing industrial sites at former forestry mills in Sault Ste. Marie, Red Rock and Iroquois Falls, the latter property also being a former Resolute mill.

Local politicians learned in August of a restrictive covenant agreement on the new owner that will prohibit pulp and paper operations from ever resuming again.

The papermaking equipment inside must be dismantled and scrapped.

These restrictive uses essentially puts a chokehold on any local hopes of luring a new manufacturer to town.

"The arrogance in the creation of these covenants shows how little respect Resolute has respect for our government and for the people of Ontario," Caul said.

"This is corporate conduct that should be condemned and penalized by the highest levels of government."

The town is banking on Kenora-Rainy River MPP and Northern Development, Mines and Energy Minister Greg Rickford to ensure the mill property and their economic interests are protected.

After meeting with Resolute officials in August, Rickford issued a statement on Aug. 16 vowing to bring back manufacturing jobs, "in whole or in part," to the site if there's a business case to be had with an interested company.

Over the years, municipal officials grew increasingly frustrated that Resolute continued pulling fibre from...

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