FORT FRANCES – “The province can’t stand by while a private company takes a public resource from the communities it is meant to benefit,” stated Hampton. “Many in our community fear that Resolute’s goal is to keep other stakeholders and residents in the dark while silencing any potential buyer from engaging in discussions necessary to formulate a successful bid”.
A grassroots community petition is calling on the provincial Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry to enforce the terms of the Sustainable Forest License held by Resolute Forest Products for the Crossroute Forest.
“In just a few short weeks, our petition has generated over 2,000 online and hand-written signatures from a community of 8,000 people,” stated Fort Frances resident Christine Hampton, who started the petition. “It just goes to show that area residents understand and care about this issue and that they expect the province to act in the community’s best interest.”
The SFL requires Resolute to use wood harvested from the Crossroute — a publicly-owned forest — to supply the Fort Frances paper mill. Resolute closed the Fort Frances mill in 2013 but continued to harvest wood from the Crossroute for its other operations. “I think initially people were hopeful there would be a new owner who would operate the mill but they are now questioning Resolute’s true intentions,” said Hampton.
In the past when the mill was sold the wood allocation went with the mill. Local wood for local jobs.
“If there was ever a question about Resolute’s non-compliance with their forest license, it was answered last month when Resolute announced plans to sell the mill to a company that would demolish it,” stated Hampton. “There is no way they can continue to hold the SFL after they began making plans to bulldoze the economic asset it is meant to support.”
The SFL became the focus of attention when Repap Resource Group announced plans in December to purchase and reopen the Fort Frances mill. Repap would require access to wood fibre in the Crossroute Forest to do so — wood fibre that is currently under the exclusive control of Resolute. Media reports have indicated that Resolute has taken steps which have made it impossible for a potential new operator to engage in the necessary discussions to acquire it. Would you buy a car that runs on gas if you can’t get any gasoline?
Repap projects that the reopened mill could create over 600 jobs for the Fort Frances area. The Town of Fort Frances and UNIFOR has indicated that there is enough wood in the Crossroute to support the Fort Frances mill along with all of Resolute’s currently operating facilities.
“The province has suggested that this is a private transaction which they are closely watching but can only act if there is a deal, this simply isn’t the case,” stated Hampton. “The Minister of Natural Resources must enforce the law governing our forest and help create jobs in our community.”
The petition will be delivered to Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford’s office on March 12, 2019, at 12:15 pm.