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REPORTING · 1st February 2010
Walter McFarlane
January 31st has passed. The clock struck midnight, the deadline for the Euorcan Pulp and Paper Mill closure has passed. However, there is still hope for the mill in that the feasibility study is still going on. The study has spent 2 weeks in the mill and now, it is just a matter of waiting for it to conclude. The waiting period is estimated to be about 8 weeks.

“The feasibility study is doing really well. They were up for two weeks on the Mill Site. So we had 6 different experts here. They briefed us at the end of the first week and then a second set of consultants came in and briefed us at the end of that. They are in constant contact with us. Their goal is to find out what can be done with that mill that makes it a viable operation with the least amount of capital,” said Mary Murphy, President of CEP 298.

At the moment, there are only preliminary suggestions. When asked if the recent Bio Fuel presentations that have been made to Kitimat Council has been in these discussions, she replied: “There has been some talk about bio fuel and the wood industry is a green viable industry so we should be using it for that and we have some people who have been looking at that also.

Murphy stated there would be a lot of work on the mill. They are aware that they will need capital investment in the mill. They need to look at where the fibre will come from, cost, customers and the price for the end product. If the feasibility study is successful, then it will take about X to have the mill running again.

Murphy pointed out that parts of the mill and necessities used to operate the mill would be removed with the closure. This will result in a huge cost for start up. Murphy is working hard to talk the government into giving the black liquor subsidy that the Mill earned to the Mill to help cover these costs.

When asked about supporting this, Minister of Forestry, Pat Bell commented “That would clearly be a Federal Government {call} and I don’t tread in other jurisdictions' area of responsibility so I will leave that up to Nathan [Cullen] and his discussions with the Federal government,” said Bell.

Bell suggested that the Black Liquor Subsidy had little to do with the closure of Eurocan as it would take about $100,000,000 to shut down the plant. “I think they were looking at the long term viability. Clearly made their decisions and you have to respect that. I think they’ve done it right, they’re trying to protect the quality of the mill and protect the assets,” said Bell.

Murphy commented that she is certain that they have met the requirements to have the feasibility study funded. They have members of the government sitting on the steering committee. In addition, the final report is supposed to be made public which fulfills obligations to the District of Kitimat. There has been a lot of talk about requesting that the Provincial Government fund the feasibility study 100%.

According to Bell, at the moment, there is no discussion on whether or not the Provincial Government will be investing further into the feasibility study. He did say the Provincial Government has invested $80,000 into the project: $20,000 through his department and the Ministry of Community Developmen; the other $40,000 through Northern Development Initiative Trust, a government funded organization.

Concerns for the workers at Eurocan is where their next pay check is coming from. Murphy said that some have found jobs and are simply going to move on. Others are going to weigh their options before they make any quick decisions. Murphy is telling members to find jobs, get registered for unemployment insurance or get involved in an education program.

Murphy stated this was a very stressful time for the workers, going into the empty, silent mill to work and she asked everybody to hang in there. The union hall was open to the workers for answers to questions and assistance with paperwork. She thanked organizations in the community for making sure that the needs of these workers were met and reducing the impact on the Union.

“I’m optimistic that there can be a viable operation at that mill site and we’ve also got a huge asset with that terminal operation, so we have to look at all areas of making that a successful business,” said Murphy. “The steering committee that we have that is working on the feasibility study is dedicated. They’ve put a lot of long, long hours in there. I really appreciated the work that they are doing for our members and the community.”