Thunder Bay

Fort Frances resident's petition calls on province to help secure mill's future

A resident of Fort Frances, Ont. says her petition asking for the government's help to ensure that the local mill has a future has amassed over 2,000 signatures in just a few weeks. 
The shuttered Resolute mill in Fort Frances. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

A resident of Fort Frances, Ont. says her petition asking for the government's help to ensure that the local mill has a future has amassed over 2,500 signatures in just a few weeks. 

The petition, which was to be delivered to Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford's office on Tuesday, calls on the province to step in to ensure that potential buyers of the mill would have access to an affordable wood supply. 

"We would like to see the mill sell to a new buyer. We want them to have an allocation of fibre," she said. 

"We no longer want to see our wood leaving our district to run other facilities."

In recent months, Hampton said residents of the town have been through "a bit of a roller-coaster ride," over the mill, as hopes that a potential buyer would soon re-start the facility, which has been idle for several years, have given way to fears that the mill might instead be sold to a buyer that would have it demolished.

Fort Frances mayor and council have been at odds with Resolute, the company that currently owns the facility and also holds the sustainable forest license for the nearby wood, over how the potential sale is being handled. 

The town has expressed concern that potential buyers interested in re-staring the mill are deterred by a lack of affordable access to wood. 

Resolute, on the other hand, has criticized the town for questioning its commitment to the community, stating that the company has spent over $30 million to keep the mill ready for a possible re-start.

Hampton said she wanted to show the town's leadership that they have the support of residents in the dispute.

"It's really united the community around this issue," she said.

Hampton, who was born and raised in Fort Frances, said she wants the resource-based jobs that have supported so many families to be there for her grandchildren. 

"My father worked at the mill, my brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and I think we have to be concerned about our future." 

Hampton said she feels the province has a duty to help with negotiations regarding the future of the mill, and to make sure a new owner would get access to the local wood supply. 

"It's not acceptable for them to simply be watching from the sidelines as all of this occurs," she said.

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