Thunder Bay

Fort Frances resolution calls for wood access for potential mill buyers

Resolute Forest Products says parts of the resolution are false, misleading or defamatory

Resolute Forest Products says parts of the resolution are false, misleading or defamatory

Many people in the Fort Frances area worry over the future of the idled pulp and paper mill. Some are afraid Resolute won't give up wood rights in the area's forest, making the sale of the mill for the purpose of restarting it virtually impossible. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The town of Fort Frances, Ont., has passed a resolution calling on the provincial government to expand access to wood in the Crossroute Forest in an effort to save the town's mill.

Resolute Forest Products holds the Sustainable Forest License for the forest.

It also owns the mill, which it shuttered in 2013.

The town says potential mill buyers looking to restart the facility are deterred by a lack of affordable access to wood.

"The mill's future has been jeopardized by what appear to be dealings motivated by a desire to maintain control of the local wood supply or to hinder new entrants into the forest industry," the resolution reads.  

"Local forest resources should be sustainably managed to primarily support and create jobs and economic prosperity for their surrounding communities."    

Now the town is fighting for what it feels is right for the community, said mayor June Caul. 

"Our economy in Fort Frances depends on that mill.  That's a huge loss in taxes that we've had to endure since the mill closed down," she said.  "Everything that we can think of to do is exactly what we are going to do."

Resolute fires back

But a spokesperson for Resolute Forest Products shot back at the town saying parts of the resolution are false, misleading or defamatory.

"After we spent well over $30 million keeping the mill in a hot idle state for two years after the closure while we literally looked across the globe for opportunities, to read in the resolution a question of Resolute's sincerity — I'd like to know what other company would spend over $30 million to keep a mill in that situation for a potential restart," Seth Kursman said.

"Questioning our sincerity — I think they're picking the wrong one to do that."

Asked if Resolute would guarantee a mill buyer access to affordable wood from the Crossroute Forest, Kursman said the company will not negotiate through the media. 

"Resolute is concerned with maintaining sufficient access to cost-competitive fibre for our currently operating facilities in northwestern Ontario," he added.