Nova Scotia

Northern Pulp planning for $350M in upgrades to restart shuttered N.S. mill

Northern Pulp’s plan to reopen its shuttered mill in Abercrombie Point, N.S., will cost an estimated $350 million, company officials announced Thursday.

Proposal will undergo a Class 2 environmental assessment by the province

The Northern Pulp mill in Abercrombie Point, N.S., viewed from Pictou, N.S., Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2019. (Robert Short/CBC)

Northern Pulp's plan to reopen its shuttered mill in Abercrombie Point, N.S., will cost an estimated $350 million, according to company officials.

The company released preliminary details of facility upgrades, including a new effluent treatment system, on Thursday, two months after submitting a plan to the provincial Department of Environment for approval.

Graham Kissack, a vice-president of Northern Pulp's parent company, Paper Excellence, promised to cut water usage, slash the operation's carbon footprint and eliminate the sulphurous odours the pulp mill emitted for several decades under previous operations.

Under the new plan, treated effluent from the mill would be released directly into Pictou harbour. Last month, after being briefed by mill officials, town of Pictou Mayor Jim Ryan said the new plan was "unacceptable."

The potential impact of pumping treated waste into the harbour will be investigated by an environmental consultant, Kissack said in a news conference Thursday that was live streamed. The exact point of discharge into the harbour will also be determined by the consultant, taking into account water flow and movement of vessels, among other factors.

He said Northern Pulp's new plan was developed after consultation with members of the surrounding community and stakeholders over the past year.

"We've heard pretty clearly from the community that we weren't doing a good enough job, that the relationships weren't strong, there was lack of trust, there was lack of respect in the leadership and really lack of transparency in what we were doing," Kissack said. "So we need to do better in that regard."

Financing still in the works

The mill, which produced kraft pulp used in things like paper towel, has been in hibernation since January 2020, when its former effluent treatment system in Boat Harbour was closed by provincial legislation.

Northern Pulp proposed an alternative system that would have piped treated effluent 14 kilometres from the mill to a discharge point in the Northumberland Strait. That plan, with a price tag of $120 million, did not pass environmental assessment.

The mill went into creditor protection several months after its closure last year. Kissack said the company is now in a "very different" position, but he could not say how it will pay for the $350-million upgrades.

"We still are working on all of the plans around financing the new site and that's still gonna take time," Kissack said.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Keith Irving announced Thursday the mill's proposal will undergo a Class 2 environmental assessment, which is more stringent and takes longer than a Class 1 assessment.

In a news release, Irving said the designation was made because "the changes outlined in the company's project description would make the mill a substantially different facility than the one that had operated there previously."

The entire process could take several years. Northern Pulp has its sights set on 2023 to begin construction.

Consultation with Pictou Landing First Nation

Northern Pulp's previous proposal faced intense opposition by fishermen, environmentalists, municipal officials and Pictou Landing First Nation. 

Pictou Landing Chief Andrea Paul did not respond to CBC's request for comment on the new plan. She posted on her Facebook page that she has been receiving updates from the company, but has not met with anyone from the mill "in quite some time."

"I will be meeting with my council, legal and engineering company next week to review this information," she wrote. 

"Just to explain — consultation is a requirement. The proponent has to consult with PLFN. It is not because they are doing any of this in good faith."

Northern Pulp's Dale Paterson said the company is trying to improve its relationship with Paul and her community.

"We keep Chief Andrea posted on issues as we move forward. We have not had a lot of detailed discussion with Chief Andrea. We will continue to reach out, we will continue to strive to reconcile our differences and have fruitful discussions with Chief Andrea and PLFN," Paterson said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Taryn Grant

Reporter

Taryn Grant is a Halifax-based reporter and web writer for CBC Nova Scotia. You can email her with tips and feedback at taryn.grant@cbc.ca

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