White River enters the golden age: Opening of mine signals spinoff opportunities for northwestern Ontario town.

Author:Ross, Ian

The resurgence in mining and forestry in northwestern Ontario is having a transformative effect on the community of White River.

The township's once-shuttered sawmill has been up and running for the last five years as White River Forest Products, under the legendary Frank Dottori and 25 kilometres to the north, mining mogul Stephen Roman and Harte Gold are bringing the newly christened Sugar Zone Mine to life.

Located 60 kilometres east of Barrick Gold's gold complex, it's the first such development in the Hemlo camp in 30 years.

Harte Gold, which poured its first gold brick in mid-October, hosted Premier Doug Ford and Mines Minister Greg Rickford on Oct. 24 for the underground mine's official opening.

With a workforce of 200 locals and transient workers, plus contractors on the scene, it's boomtown days for the community of 1,300, situated on the Trans-Canada Highway, roughly halfway between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay.

Housing is at a premium and there's a glaring need for people to fill industry and service sector jobs, "but it's all good news to the community," said long-time Mayor Angelo Bazzoni.

Now on the rebound from the bleak days of 2007, when Domtar pulled stakes in White River and put 195 out of work, Bazzoni declares White River is "open for business," and opportunity beckons.

"We've got a big demand for electrical contractors, millwrights, welders, and even commercial laundry has become an issue in White River when you have a 100 pairs of coveralls that have to be dry-cleaned."

Restaurants that closed up a decade ago have reopened. Foundations were being poured in October for a new Subway sandwich shop, and the town has added more lots to its industrial park.

Bazzoni leads a pro-business council that teamed with Pic Mobert First Nation to buy the idled saw mill assets off Domtar in 2013 and recruited Dottori to buy in and take over the operation. The majority of the mill's workforce commutes from surrounding communities.

At the same time, Bazzoni said they poured their efforts into Second Career training for future mining jobs and were attentive to the needs of the mining companies.

The current Harte Gold mine site has been an area of exploration for many years.

When Roman took over as company president in 2009, the township, as part-owner of the mill, worked to extend a logging road to enable the miner to access its remote site off Highway 631.

"It would be safe to say mining is the primary industry in White River," said...

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