Companies who move their products by rail say they are watching the Ontario Northland divestment closely.

The Ontario Northland Railway hauls freight for a number of industrial operations in communities along Highway 11.

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Ontario Northland Rail hauls freight for a number of industrial operations in communities along Highway 11. (CBC)

The future of what is now the ONR is doubly important for the town of Englehart.

The railway is a major employer, as is Georgia Pacific — a company that uses the ONR to ship oriented strand board from its Englehart plant.

"We've engaged in conversations with the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines," said Georgia Pacific spokesperson Eric Abercrombie.

"We have expressed to them that any change in the ownership of the Northland Railroad would need to continue providing ... consistent reliable service level."

The Atlanta-based company has had "a great relationship with the Ontario Northland Railroad," Abercrombie said, adding that the Englehart plant "depends on quality rail service that is ... safe, reliable and competitive so we [can] continue delivering products to our customers."

Ensuring the 'rail system doesn't fail'

Further north along the highway, Detour Gold is also keeping an eye on the future of the railroad.

After years of construction, Detour is about to start producing gold at its mine north of Cochrane.

CEO Gerald Panneton said it plans to expand its use of the railroad.

"We have a good relation with Northland," he said.

"Hopefully we will be able to make sure that the rail system doesn't fail in the future."

The province has said it's confident someone from the private sector will purchase and operate the ONR.

Currently it's focusing on selling Ontera, the communications arm of Ontario Northland, before moving on to the sale of the rail division.