Nfld. & Labrador

AbitibiBowater workers finish final shifts at N.L. paper mill

Employees at AbitibiBowater in Grand Falls-Windsor finished their last shifts on Friday as the newsprint paper mill prepared to officially close its doors Saturday, putting an end to a century-long history in central Newfoundland.

Employees at AbitibiBowater in Grand Falls-Windsor finished their last shifts on Friday as the newsprint paper mill prepared to officially close its doors Saturday, putting an end to a century-long history in central Newfoundland.

The last of the mill workers cleaned out their lockers and took home their belongings.

Roger Mercer, who is ending a 38-year career as a paper maker, said having four months to prepare for the closing didn't make his last day any easier.

"People in here were like a second family. You knew just as much about their lives and their families, as what you knew about your own," he said.

Sherri Burt, owner of Murph's Café in Grand Falls, said the mill's closure and its heyday were the only things her customers were talking about on Friday.

"Especially today, everyone just comes in and comments on the day it's going to be. The mill workers, and it's sad for them, big guys leaving the mill and just tears in the eyes," she said.

Burt said it's sad that the mill is officially closing, but at least now people can start to move on with their lives.

Government to operate hydro assets

In the meantime, the provincial government said it would assume operation of AbitibiBowater's hydro assets on the Exploits River through Nalcor Energy, the province's energy corporation.

"The purpose of the expropriation is to ensure our natural resources are returned to their rightful owners — the people of this province — after AbitibiBowater ceased operation of its logging and milling operations in central Newfoundland," said Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale in a news release.

"We have had a team in place since that action was taken to organize the transition of the hydro operations to the province. We will assume operation of some of those facilities Saturday at midnight."

The government passed legislation on Dec. 16 to expropriate hydroelectricity and timber rights.

Dunderdale announced Monday that talks between the provincial government and AbitibiBowater on compensation for the expropriation had broken off because the company said the government's offer for the assets was too low.