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Updated: Mill in Powell River scheduled to reopen

Paper Excellence officially announces one paper machine is to start up; mayor says company will be making new product
RESUMING PRODUCTION: Catalyst Paper Corporation’s Powell River mill will be reopening in May, with 200 workers returning, according to Paper Excellence.

Paper Excellence announced March 8 that it plans to restart number 11 paper machine at Catalyst Powell River, on or around May 1, 2021.

According to a media release from Paper Excellence, the restart reflects the recent recovery in global paper markets and the company’s long-term commitment to the Powell River facility.

The machine was curtailed in the spring of 2020 after an external malware attack. The COVID-19 pandemic simultaneously impacted the mill’s paper production, as well as global paper demand. A total of 200 jobs will return with the startup of the paper machine.

“This is long awaited good news for Powell River,” said Patrick Corriveau, vice president of paper and packaging at Paper Excellence. “We deeply appreciate the patience shown by our employees. We know the extended curtailment had a significant impact on them, their families, our business partners and the greater community.”

Powell River mayor Dave Formosa announced the restart of the mill last week after having had a conversation with Corriveau.

Speaking at the City of Powell River council meeting on March 4, Formosa said he wanted to announce that the mill will be starting up one paper machine.

“We’re looking for that to happen in May,” said Formosa. “They are anticipating four- to six-week lead time so certain workers will be called back to the operation to start getting the facility ready to fire up one machine.

“They will be making a new product that has not been made here before. It’s a brown, heavy paper that will line boxes, so it’s a box liner, which happens to have a good market. That’s good news.”

Formosa said the mill is hoping to start up a second machine once they get enough orders for the thermo-mechanical pulp (TMP) operation. He said that is where the mill would take pulp from the TMP operation, dry it on the paper machines onto rolls, and then sell it into Asia as a raw material.

“Generally, it doesn’t come in paper rolls, they come in little blocks, but there seems to be a market for this and I know the group at Catalyst is working very hard so Powell River can start up another machine when they get enough orders to get out there and make that happen.”

Formosa said he wanted to thank city council for its ongoing support of the mill. He also thanked Catalyst for believing in Powell River and working hard for the company to start up its third mill. The mills in Port Alberni and Crofton are currently operating.

The Paper Excellence release stated that the company continues to be hopeful that improved global paper markets will enable it to restart the mill’s second paper machine later in 2021.

In 2019, the mill used 93 per cent renewable energy and has reduced its carbon emissions by 79 per cent since 1990, according to the release.