The news that the NewPage Port Hawkesbury Corp. mill is seeking protection from its creditors and will be sold brought a surprisingly upbeat reaction from residents of the town.

Union and businesspeople alike said Wednesday that they remain optimistic the mill can re-open under a new owner.

At the offices of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union Local 972 in Port Hawkesbury, the union executive actually seemed relieved.

Their big fear had been a shutdown at the mill dragging on for months — with no answers from NewPage about the future.


Union first vice-president Archie MacLachlan is optimistic the NewPage mill can be sold. ((CBC))

Archie MacLachlan, union first vice-president, said now the workers know where they stand.

"It's a sign, and a good sign I think, that we're now free of the parent company in the States and they're going to try and sell us," he said. "I think we've got an excellent product here for somebody to buy."

The mill has 600 inside workers, and 400 forestry workers. Hundreds of others depend on the plant for indirect jobs.

Members of the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce met with MLAs this week and were also upbeat about the news.

"That's positive for the community. Everybody was hoping that new owners would come in and they're actively pursuing new owners," said Parker Stone, president of the chamber.

"We believe they have some good prospects there. All levels of government are getting involved, we have committees formed here in town, so people are positive. Everyone can look forward to new owners coming in three to six months, hopefully, and get the mill operating again."

The big question is who will want to buy a mill that lost nearly $50 million last year, but the warden of Richmond County thinks the right buyer is out there.

John Boudreau said the mill needs to stays open, and stay in Cape Breton.


Workers at the NewPage Port Hawkesbury Corp. mill produce newsprint and glossy magazine paper. (CBC)

"The one thing we want to do is we want to look at the possible types of legislation that would secure the asset. You know, we don't want that asset leaving town on a transport truck," he said.

Boudreau said mayors and wardens in the Strait-area have hired a lawyer to advise them on what can be done to make sure any buyer agrees to operate the mill where it is now.

The company goes before the Nova Scotia Supreme Court Friday to ask for the protection while it looks for a buyer.

NewPage announced on Aug. 22 that the newsprint machine will shut down on Sept. 10, while the machine that produces glossy paper for magazines will be turned off Sept. 16.

The pulp and paper mill has been the major employer in the Port Hawkesbury area since the 1960s. It was sold to Ohio-based NewPage Corp. in 2007.