Nfld. & Labrador

No deal on proposed Botwood wood chip project: Minister

A U.K. company that hoped to produce and export wood chips from the Botwood area has been unable to reach a a deal with the province, according to Gerry Byrne.

Province offered 60,000 cubic metres of timber rights

The Bulk Logistics proposal would have meant new activity at the now-dormant Botwood harbour. (CBC)

The latest proposal that promised to breathe new life into the Botwood harbour has reached a stalemate.

U.K.-based Bulk Logistics has been unable to reach a deal with the provincial government on timber rights according to Gerry Byrne, Newfoundland and Labrador's minister of land resources.

Byrne said the company, which had eyed the 285,000 cubic metres of timber which was once owned by Abitibi, has turned down a smaller, 60,000 cubic metre offer from the provincial government.

It would have been the third-highest allocation to a company in the province, according to the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources.

The Canadian Coast Guard ship, Sir Wilfred Grenfell, in Botwood harbour in 2017. (Submitted by Linda Lane)

 "We've been actively engaged with the company itself, and got to the point where we were prepared to sign a memorandum of understanding that would be based on a 60,000 cubic metre allocation, initially," Byrne told reporters Friday.

"The company itself was not able, or decided not to sign that particular agreement, because they wanted, as I understand it, access to larger amounts of resource."

They wanted, as I understand it, access to larger amounts.- Gerry Byrne

Bulk Logistics had plans to build a sawmill near the Botwood Highway, and use another in Point Leamington as part of the process to convert timber into wood chips. 

The chips would have been sorted in Botwood, and shipped out of the harbour. According to Botwood Mayor Scott Sceviour, the proposal would have brought more than 300 jobs to the area within three to five years.

Incremental is key

Gerry Byrne said on Friday that the company was not ready to sign a business plan with the province, but maintained that the provincial government would still speak with Bulk Logistics about their proposal.

"We're open for business," he said.

The Bulk Logistics proposal is the latest forestry plan in the Botwood Area to stall. A previous proposal by Newgreen Technology to open a biofuel plant in the area also hit a snag, something the company partially blamed on government bureaucracy.

Byrne was in Grand Falls-Windsor as part of a Way Forward plan announcement. He announced three new initiatives for the province's forestry sector.

The Department of Fisheries and Land Resources will roll out five-year cutting permits for certain forestry operators, Byrne said Friday, in an effort to provide further stability. The provincial government will also implement a new usage policy that may make "traditionally underutilized" forests available to different companies, and create a system where forestry companies can bid on timber rights within crown lands.

The provincial government also announced their intention to partner with the Newfoundland and Labrador Forest Industry Association to create a diversification plan for the forestry sector.

Gerry Byrne said the company behind the latest proposal for forestry in Botwood did not produce a business plan for the provincial government. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Byrne said the government is adopting an incremental approach to their dealings with the forestry industry, and the negotiation with Bulk Logistics follows that philosophy.

"It's really really important that we move incrementally so that we offer an opportunity for investment, but at the same time, we don't lock up incredibly valuable fibre and forest inventory for a very very long period of time, and not have that fibre utilized," he said.

Plans for forestry, mining

Premier Dwight Ball said the plan for the province's forestry industry — and a similar plan announced for the province's mining industry — will help create jobs in those fields.

He pointed to movement in other industries that have been the focus of Way Forward documents, like the agriculture industry.

According to the provincial government, 140 people have expressed interest in creating or expanding farms since the government announced their plan to double employment in agriculture.

According to Bill Dawson, the head of the Newfoundland and Labrador Forest Industry Association, the diversification plan may be able to help the province decide allocation levels.

Bill Dawson says the forestry industry in Newfoundland and Labrador in rebuilding, and it's an optimal time to create a diversification plan. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

"Where should the resource be allocated? Ensuring that the right fibre goes to there right mills is cost effective, it's efficient. So putting those types of plans in place are critical," he said.

"Without a plan… if you don't have a strategy, and you're just acting on tactics, that's just the noise before defeat."

About the Author

Garrett Barry

Journalist

Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander.