The Terrace Bay Pulp mill, closed for the past two months, is now for sale.
Local managers and the union have been told Terrace Bay Pulp is looking for new ownership, leaving the fate of 350 workers in the balance.
Jason Nesbitt of the Aquasabon Chamber of Commerce said the business community is nervous about how the future might unfold. "Definitely everybody's on pins and needles," he said. "It's scary times. A lot of rumours have been flying around the last couple of weeks so I don't think it's a big shock to everyone, you know, the official news, but definitely people are pretty anxious."
"I would hope that they are able to find a buyer ... especially maybe someone who is better suited or in a better position to run the mill," said the Mayor of Terrace Bay, Mike King.
King said the mill was scheduled to re-open in March but many expect the shutdown will now be extended.
Paul Gerlach heads the Steelworkers union local that represents most of the mill workers. He said mill management had recently been giving hints that something was up. "Things have been happening around the mill. Like, they moved some equipment outside....and they paid off our vacation pay for 2012," he said.
The mill is owned by Buchanan Forest Products who bought the former Neenah Paper mill in 2006. The operation went into bankruptcy protection and was shut down for 20 months, re-opening Oct. 4, 2010. The mill received a $25 million loan from the provincial government and a $40 million loan from a private lender to re-start.
Buchanan had six years to pay those loans off but the company wasn't allowed to take any profits from the operation until all of its bills were paid.
Last October the mill was shut down after the death in of a worker in an industrial accident. It re-opened briefly and then another shut-down was announced Nov. 23 due to economic conditions.