Frustration mounts as Enterprise pellet mill held up over development permit

While 320 hectares of land near Enterprise, N.W.T. remains covered in snow, the CEO of a proposed multimillion-dollar wood pellet plant is growing increasingly frustrated by its most recent delay.

Enterprise mayor says that the town is doing due diligence on project; mill's CEO says demands unreasonable

Brad Mapes points at the future site of pellet plant buildings for a proposed pellet mill in Enterprise, N.W.T. Mapes, the CEO of Aurora Wood Pellets, is frustrated with what he's calling unnecessary delays as he attempts to receive a development permit for the site. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

While 320 hectares of land near Enterprise, N.W.T. remains covered in snow, the CEO of a proposed multimillion-dollar wood pellet plant is growing increasingly frustrated by the most recent delay in a series of setbacks preventing the company from beginning construction.

Hay River businessman and former mayor Brad Mapes is at odds with the Hamlet of Enterprise over a development permit which would allow him to break ground.

Mapes wants to get the permit this winter so his company can clear trees before the summer months. He said that he won't do the work in the summer, citing a need to protect nesting birds and wildlife.

We are not holding the project up. We are simply doing due diligence.- Winnie Cadieux, Enterprise mayor

"We can't clear the trees in the summertime," he said.

Without receiving a permit in the short term, the construction of the plant will get pushed back another year.

A sign designates the future site for the pellet mill. Mapes says that he needs his permit as soon as possible in order to begin clearing trees in the winter months. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

Due diligence, says mayor

Mapes has site drawings of what the plant will look like, which he has shared with the hamlet. What he can't give them is exact distances, he said, such as how far in metres the buildings will be from the highway.

"What the community wants is an actual drawing of the whole site and what the buildings will look like. Well, I can't do that until I know what the ground level is like," Mapes said.

Enterprise Mayor Winnie Cadieux bristles at the suggestion the hamlet is causing unnecessary delays.

"We are not holding the project up. We are simply doing due diligence, which as a hamlet council, we are required to do," Cadieux said.

Mayor Winnie Cadieux says that the hamlet is simply doing due diligence, and that she's invited Mapes to meet with hamlet council early next month. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

When asked about the hamlet's specific concerns, Cadieux declined to elaborate but said "the hamlet has kept Mr. Mapes's application confidential, as he's requested in the past."

"We will continue to discuss [the permit application] in-camera with consultants and the people we feel can give us the best advice moving forward," she said.

We support this pellet mill to get the economy up.- Louis Balsillie, Chief of Fort Resolution

Cadieux said she has invited Mapes to meet with council in early February.

However, Mapes told the CBC he's still hoping to have the permit approved by the end of January.

"It's crunch time," Mapes said.

Once the plant is built, timber will be shipped for processing from nearby communities including Fort Resolution, where Chief Louis Balsillie said harvesters are ready to start cutting.

"We support this pellet mill to get the economy up. It will be a big boost, along with Hay River, Enterprise and Fort Providence. It's really going to help a lot," he said.


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