Nova Scotia

Port Hawkesbury Paper to diversify as newsprint mill demolished

Port Hawkesbury paper plans to demolish its idle newsprint mill to make way for new and diversified products

Mill continues to produce supercalendared paper, but eyes water bottling and sugar extraction

Port Hawkesbury Paper will continue to produce high-gloss paper and diversify its operations. (CBC)

Port Hawkesbury Paper is looking to the future and eyeing new projects as plans to demolish the idle newsprint mill move forward.

"The roof of the mill is cement and from a safety standpoint, if not operating, roofs fail over time," said Marc Dube, Port Hawkesbury Paper's development manager. "We're demolishing it before it becomes a safety issue," 

The newsprint mill was idle when current owners, Stern Partners, bought the operation in 2012. Dube said there were never plans to restart it due operation costs and the dying market for newsprint.

The company did try to sell it in its entirety, but Dube said there is no interest "across the globe" in dismantling and rebuilding it. Now, the company will sell what it can in parts, with the rest going to scrap.

The building is expected to be demolished next spring and Dube said the company wants the newsprint mill site for other projects.

Looking to the future

"We have three or four different plans for the site," Dube said. "It could be a bottled water plant, a transloading site or a site to fill [shipping] containers." 

The company is also looking at extracting sugar from wood for use in biodegradable plastics.

Dube said Port Hawkesbury Paper will continue to make supercalendared paper, which has not been as adversely affected by market changes as newsprint.

"The mill is the newest and best quality paper-making plant in North American," Dube said. "We believe because of that we'll be making paper here for a long time."

The paper is currently loaded into containers and shipped to Halifax. With that capacity, there's an opportunity to load other products and ship them elsewhere.

'An economic driver'

Dube said with the prospect of the rail line between Port Hawkesbury and Sydney not resuming operations, there's a business opportunity to send materials by rail car to the mill site, load it into trucks and ship it to Sydney and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Already, the company is shipping plastic pellets and building supplies to Sydney businesses.

"It's good business for the mill and those it's serving," Dube said.

Dube said the Port Hawkesbury operation directly employs 330 on site, not counting the Nova Scotia Power employees who work there.

He said another 400 to 500 people work in the forest harvesting wood for the plant.

"It certainly is an economic driver for the Strait area," he said

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