Canada

Marathon Pulp announces indefinite shutdown of mill

Marathon Pulp Inc. will shut down its pulp mill indefinitely, affecting 230 employees in the small northern Ontario town.

Marathon Pulp Inc. will shut down its pulp mill indefinitely, affecting 230 employees in the small northern Ontario town.

"The actual blow to this community is going to be big," said Mayor Rick Dumas.

He said businesses in the community of 4,400 will also be indirectly impacted by the mill's closure and it could cause other layoffs and operational cutbacks.

Marinos Spourdalakis — who owns two motels, a restaurant and a gas station in the town — said about 40 per cent of his business comes from mill workers.

"For a businessman who's been around for such a long time, to hear news like this ... it's not very pleasant," Spourdalakis said. "I hope it is temporary because in the long term, it would be bad news for everybody, not just for me."

The mill, which is located on the northern shore of Lake Superior, is jointly owned by Quebec companies Tembec and Kruger.

The pulp plant is one of the oldest in Canada and produced its first bale of pulp in 1946.

The decision to close the mill is disappointing because the workers at the plant had already agreed to cut their pay by 12.5 per cent in November in an effort to help the company, said United Steelworkers spokesman Herb Daniher said.

The mill also had temporarily shut down in December for two weeks.

A date for the latest closure has not yet been released and no estimate has been provided on how low it will remain closed, Daniher said. But the union has heard that the mill will be maintained during the shutdown, he said.

"We're devastated," said Marathon resident Doug Gale. "It's going to be a big blow to the town's economy.… A couple weeks or a couple of months, it will hurt."

The Marathon Pulp mill pays about $1.2 million of tax annually to the town, Dumas said. Council will be meeting to discuss the long-term impact of the closure on the municipal budget, he said.

Ontario's natural resources minister and northern development and mines minister are expected to meet with the owners of the mill, said a government spokesperson on Wednesday.

With files from the Canadian Press

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