The Northern Pulp mill is here for the long haul.
“Rumours that our mill is closing any time soon are simply not true,” said Bruce Chapman, general manager of the Pictou County kraft pulp mill.
Emphatically denying that the Abercrombie Point mill is considering such a drastic step, Chapman said it is rumour mongers who are tainting the air.
“There are people who take rumours and embellish them in a way that hurts our business. This type of pollution should be eradicated as best we can. This rumour has no basis in fact.”
He said rumours simply force the mill operators to focus on efficiency and excellence while trying to avoid the distraction of what is being said.
“At this very moment, we’re investing millions of dollars to get our new precipitator commissioned. That’s going to improve our environmental footprint. We do have an annual maintenance shutdown in May to help maintain and enhance our equipment and our operations.”
The 10-storey electrostatic precipitator to be installed by May is intended to significantly reduce mill emissions.
The mill operators, Chapman said, are looking forward to the end of winter like everyone else, “and getting our nursery back in operation, which grows six million trees.
“We’re sold out. We have kraft pulp orders, and the low Canadian dollar is good for our exports. We instituted a new communications strategy and we hired a new communications director. She starts in early May.”
But the mill has its challenges and its detractors.
“It’s hopefully just a rumour,” said Matt Gunning, a member of Clean Up the Pictou County Pulp Mill group that took part in several summer rallies against air pollution. “It would be more jobs lost.”
Gunning said if the company initiated the rumour, it may just be a pressure tactic.
“It could be a good strategy to release a rumour like that just before you send in your appeal,” Gunning said of the company’s intention to appeal the industrial permit reissued by the government earlier this month.
“Then everybody is a little bit nervous about what might happen if your appeal is ignored.”
Chapman dismissed any company involvement in the rumour, reiterating that unfounded speculation is just bad for business.
“It might be fuelled by our decision to appeal the industrial approval.
“We’re committed to a long-term future here. We appealed the approval that we feel will hurt our business in the long-term.”
In the industrial, permit, the provincial Environment Department demands a significant reduction in allowable particulate emissions, an annual cap on overall emissions and daily maximums imposed on water use and waste-water effluent.
Chapman said recently that the industrial approval was “just not reasonable or fair,” because it sets new standards that go beyond what other pulp and paper companies are expected to meet.
The company has 30 days to appeal the industrial permit.
“We’re still in the process of completing our appeal,” Chapman said Tuesday.
The company has long-term rights to 100,000 green tonnes
of wood fibre from Crown land through the 1960s Scott Maritimes Limited Agreement Act
and the rights to an additional 125,000 tonnes from Crown
land granted by the NDP government.
The mill employs more than 250 workers in the plant and hundreds of others in woodlands, sawmills and on trucks that make 200 daily deliveries to the mill.
Gunning said if the mill were ever to close, a number of the jobs could be absorbed in the cleanup of the nearby Boat Harbour site.
The province has promised to close the existing treatment plant there and to remediate the site, but it has yet to establish a timeline for any of that work.
“Hopefully, if that was the case, the government has a plan in place to start cleaning up Boat Harbour, and all the guys that are working over there won’t lose a day’s pay because there is plenty of work to do, cleaning up,” Gunning said.