Fort Frances' major employer stalls mill indefinitely

The Mayor of Fort Frances is holding onto hope in the face of Resolute Forest Products' decision to shut down most of its mill operations.

Resolute Forest Products lays off 240 workers with no date for recall

Resolute Forest Product's pulp and paper mill in Fort Frances, Ont., will shut down indefinitely at the end of the month. (Resolute Forest Products)

The Mayor of Fort Frances is holding onto hope in the face of Resolute Forest Products' decision to shut down most of its mill operations.

The company is idling its kraft mill and one of two paper machines for an undetermined period of time. A total of 240 workers are being laid off with no date for a recall.

Fort Frances mayor Roy Avis said he was hoping for the best when he met with Resolute officials on Tuesday.

"We've never really got into a situation like this, but I do believe that the community will start to rally and get behind and ... try to work with Resolute to come up with a solution to some of the problems that we have," he said.

Resolute's president and chief executive officer, Richard Garneau, said the markets for pulp and paper products have been challenging.

President and CEO of Resolute Forest Products Richard Garneau said the company "will monitor market conditions closely and work with key stakeholders to explore ways to improve the mill's cost position." (CBC)

"The kraft mill situation is particularly difficult, given Fort Frances' operating configuration and the recent decision by a key customer to stop consuming the pulp supplied by Resolute to its mill," Garneau stated in a press release Tuesday.

"Our kraft mill's drying capacity is limited to about 40 percent of its production capacity, making it impossible to continue operating the mill in a profitable manner."

Avis noted the shutdown will only add to his community's challenges.

"It's our major employer. I guess we could say it's a one-horse town," he said.

"Being on the border with the amount of out-traffic we get … our downtown core area is in a real difficult situation."

Avis said he hopes Resolute can find alternative product opportunities for the mill.

‘Not going to be mothballed’

Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP John Rafferty was also trying to be optimistic.

"They assured me that, no, it's not going to be mothballed," Rafferty said. "The lights and the electricity will be left on so, that's a hopeful sign. I think there's still some hope that in the future — hopefully the near future — that they'll be able to start that machine up again and the kraft mill."

Resolute reports it will consider the laid-off workers in Fort Frances for job vacancies at other company facilities.

The Ontario vice president with the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers Union of Canada said he still hopes the company can find other options for the mill and bring workers back.

"I think everybody knew that there was some problems with the sale of the pulp across the border to Boise," Kim Ginter said.

"Since the company lost that contract, we knew it'd have a impact on the mill, but we're shocked to hear that it happened this quick."

The company expects to stop operations by the end of November.