While Paper Excellence has indicated that the Catalyst Paper Tis’kwat mill is now in indefinite curtailment, City of Powell River mayor Dave Formosa is hopeful solutions can be found to maintain business activity at the mill site.
Formosa said the city continues to be an advocate for continued operation at the mill, but not in its current form. He said he was told that the last paper has come off the paper machines.
“We will not see pulp and paper come out of this mill again,” said Formosa. “I was told that by Harold Norlund, the acting president of Catalyst. Those were his words to me yesterday [December 1].”
Formosa indicated that he has been a strong advocate for the mill since his time in office. He said he had found buyers, lobbied the government for funds, and the company received them.
“I’ve worked actively with all of the presidents and took them to the government, took them to the premier and the ministers,” said Formosa. “We’ve worked very hard at keeping that mill together over the last 14 years I’ve been in office.”
Formosa said he has had enquiries for years from corporations for assistance to get to Catalyst’s ownership about acquisition of the mill site.
“I still had faith in paper and didn’t really do a lot about it,” said Formosa. “In the last year or so, my ears were open more and I have been working with certain groups that call, getting information. For the last year and a half, this one particular company has been working with Catalyst and the province, and that’s Renewable Hydrogen Canada (RHC). They are now in a position where they are in negotiations with Catalyst to purchase.
“They’ve been meeting with ministers and the government to talk about permitting and issues to build a hydrogen methane plant to create methane fuel. At first, I thought it was hydrogen cells but as I got more involved, I learned it was fuel. This particular company, in my view, has a good head start. If they’ve been at it a year and a half, and a year I’ve known about, where I’ve been kept up to date by Catalyst, I say we should work with the one that is furthest ahead.”
Formosa said RHC does not have an exclusive deal at this time and he’s sure Catalyst is keeping all of its options open.
“Wouldn’t it be great to have renewable, clean energy coming out of the mill that gets its power from hydro dams and from these boilers we had the government finance and build for us, creating green energy,” said Formosa. “That’s what I’m excited about.”
Formosa said, however, that he is supportive of all groups interested in setting up business at the Catalyst mill site.
The mayor said premier John Horgan is working with Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons to help Catalyst’s workers because RHC wants the labour force.
“They want the 400 people who were working there a year and a half ago,” said Formosa. “They want them all.”
No tax concerns, says mayor
Formosa said as far as the tax base from the mill, he doesn’t see any concerns.
“We’ve got a good owner that is community minded,” said Formosa. “The assets are there and there’s a value in that site. It has a lot of value for a lot of potential customers and clients. I don’t think we’re going to have issues collecting our taxes. I don’t see any immediate need for alarm.”
The Catalyst mill contributes more than $3.2 million a year in city taxes.
Formosa said he is concerned about the displaced workers and is urging governments and Catalyst to speed up the processes to look after them if they can.
“Some people may go and work for Catalyst elsewhere, others may leave the family and do something else, but they hopefully come back and live in this beautiful, safe community, and go back into that site and make clean energy for the world,” said Formosa. “I’ll do everything in my power while in office and out of office, to assist all of these folks to try and do a deal if it’s there.”