Hornepayne mill owner eyeing mid-December start-up

The new owner of the lumber mill in Hornepayne, Ont. says he expects to start-up the shuttered facility in time for the new year.

Frank Dottori, president of Hornepayne Lumber, is no stranger to re-starting idled mills

The president of Hornepayne Lumber says he's looking to have the town's mill running again by the new year. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The new owner of the lumber mill in Hornepayne, Ont. says he expects to start-up the shuttered facility in time for the new year.

Frank Dottori, the president of Hornepayne Lumber LP — the company behind the purchase of the mill and neighbouring power co-generation plant — told CBC News the plan is to start the mill up temporarily in mid-December, then have one shift online by Jan. 2 or 3, 2017.

"Hopefully if I can organize some wood, I'd like to start it up December 12th, run it for a week or two just to make sure, see what the bugs are," he said.

Re-starting the mill would bring some much-needed jobs back to Hornepayne. 146 people were laid off in November, 2015 when the facility's former owners, the Olav Haavaldsrud Timber Company, closed it.

Dottori purchased the mill first in September, then finalized the deal for the co-gen plant October 1.

Owning both facilities is important for a number of reasons, he said.

"It maximizes the value of the resource and the forest without sort of wasting the forest, and at the same time, it allows us to maybe reduce our cost for the operation."

The co-generation plant allows the company to sell power, primarily to the province; how much power the Independent Electrical System Operator will accept, however, was a major issue facing the mill's former owners.

Dottori said he hasn't yet spoken to provincial officials about the power sale agreement.

A 'highly risky environment'

Putting money into re-starting lumber mills isn't without its risks, Dottori said, especially with uncertainty surrounding the future of softwood lumber exports to the United States.

The 2006 softwood lumber agreement between Canada and the U.S., including a one-year standstill period, expired Oct. 12, which is expected to push the U.S. to begin the process of imposing tariffs on Canadian lumber.

Still, Dottori cited recent re-starts in Terrace Bay, Longlac and White River as examples of companies willing to take the risk.

"That was a highly risky environment, but this is what you need to do," Dottori said.

"It's created thousands of jobs for northern Ontario and I think that's where we've got to keep pushing."

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