Thunder Bay

Former pulp and paper mill in Fort Frances, Ont., could produce cannabis, packaging

The former Resolute pulp and paper mill in Fort Frances, Ont., could produce cannabis or even specialty packaging materials, according to the site's new owner.
In 2014, Resolute Forest Products said it was closing the Fort Frances mill as a result of poor market conditions. In 2019, the mill was sold for $1 to Riversedge Developments with the condition the mill will not operate as a pulp and paper operation. (Supplied)

The former Resolute pulp and paper mill in Fort Frances, Ont., could produce cannabis or even specialty packaging materials, according to the site's new owner.

Riversedge Developments purchased the former mill, which was permanently closed in 2014. 

The sale of the mill to the development firm has irked many in the border town, who would like to see the mill return to its former glory of making pulp and paper, or at least be involved in forest industry.

"There's a wide range of fibre products such as the brown paper and cardboard that can be made on the mill [site]," said Justus Veldman, the President and CEO of Riversedge Developments.

He told CBC News while newsprint and other products manufactured by Resolute could no longer be produced on the mill site, due to a condition of sale, other paper-based products could still be manufactured on site, if a business came forward expressing interest to do so.

"Thanks to the biomass plant being in the shape that it is, there is some hope there, but that's a long road of due diligence [by a manufacturer]," said Veldman. He said Riversedge is in the development business, and is not interested in manufacturing.

Veldman said the Fort Frances operation also benefits from a power pricing agreement, signed in 1905, which gives the site the "cheapest power in the province."

He said the a portion of the mill could also be used to grow cannabis on an industrial scale, noting the cheap electricity, as well as water permits and wastewater treatment plants make the site an ideal place to grow the plant.

Veldman warned though, that some portions of the mill itself are in rough shape, with some buildings being vacant for nearly 20 years.

Town not impressed

The Town of Fort Frances said it was unhappy with the conditions included in the mill sale, which does not transfer the wood licence from the Crossroute Forest, near the town, to the new owner of the mill.

June Caul, the town's mayor, said Riversedge bought the mill property for just $1 in July, but part of the conditions on the purchase was that wood rights would not be transferred with the mill site sale. 

"These restrictions prohibit the sale to any entity that would manufacture various types of pulp or paper products and restrictions that would prohibit a new owner of the property from engaging the provincial government to request access to a wood supply."

The town, Caul said, wants the province to cancel Resolute's wood licence for the Crossroute Forest. She said the town is also considering legal action to try and keep wood fibre close to her community.

A scrap metal company has also registered a mortgage on the mill property, which is also concerning, said Caul.

About the Author

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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