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Be careful with that pellet deal

Dear Editor,Back in 2008 Abititi Bowater Paper Company was in trouble facing bankruptcy, the company tried to save itself by downsizing and with the help of its workers tried to keep afloat.

Grand Falls-Windsor was one of its mills and only for the mill there would never be a town there; the same as Twillingate would not be there without the fishery.

The mill union in Grand Falls-Windsor played hardball and was not willing to make sacrifices, although this mill had provided good paying jobs for close to 100 years.

The union thought the company was bluffing and our Premier at that time, Danny Williams, did not help when he publicly stated the quicker that we see the back of their heads the better; not a good statement from a premier with hundreds of jobs at stake. The Union called what they thought was a bluff and lost. Abititi Bowater is still alive but closed the mill in Grand Falls-Windsor, the cost was too much to operate and could not make a profit.

Then Premier Williams, without putting much thought into it, decided to expropriate the timber rights and the water rights. They ended up with timber rights that were due to expire in a couple months and go back to the Crown on Dec. 31 of that year; ended up with a couple of power plants, one partly owned by Fortis, a large NL Corporation, what for, I don’t know, they would have to sell the power to us at the going rate.  The only thing that we really gained was a mill that nobody wanted and another huge cost to dismantle and clean up. 

The biggest Newfie joke of all times.

For years the government has been trying to get someone to operate that mill, to no avail.

Now I understand they are about to do a deal with a company outside of Canada to operate a wood pellet plant in Central and we may have to put a great deal of our money into it.  I have a great concern for this deal and what it could do to our forests.

I spent seven years working in a sawmill, 11 years as a member of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Public Advisory Committee and 16 years as a member of District 9, Forestry Five Year Planning Committee.

We have one paper mill left in Corner Brook which I believe is on sound footing. We have four large integrated sawmills, one in Roddickton, operated by Ted Lewis; one in Hampden, operated by the Osmond Family; Cottles Island Lumber, operated by Rex Philpot, and the Sextons Mill in Bloomfield.

These sawmills chew up a lot of logs, some of which are supplied by the Kruger Paper Mill in Corner Brook, in exchange for chips from the slabs used for paper production, as well as wood too small for logs, also bark and sawdust, which is used as hog fuel to supply the steam plant.

This is an arrangement that is working quite well but there is still a shortage of logs for the sawmills, as was proven this past year of the shutdown of the Sexton mill for a period of time because this government would not give them access to some of the crown lands in Central.

We do not have an abundance of timber on this island because of three paper mills in the past; our forests could not sustain them.  I went in a field trip this past winter on a logging operation where the production of saw logs was 20 – 80 percent pulpwood.

Our sawmills are providing much more return and jobs from our forests because lumber is the top end of the tree. If we are to protect that we have to stop cutting immature trees and let our forests grow to provide saw logs to our sawmill industry, these industries can go on forever but only if our forests are managed properly.

I have nothing against a pellet plant in this province but only if it doesn’t interfere with the operation of the Corner Brook Paper mill and the sawmill industry. Pellets are supposed to be a byproduct of scrap wood and residue from saw mills.

My advice to this government, if you do a deal with any pellet plant company make sure it is above board, do not give them long leases on timber.

We got our timber leases back in 2009 when they ran out and let’s keep them where they belong, with the people of NL and not use them for short-term gain and a couple seats in the next election.

All statements in this letter are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of any of the committees I am a member of.

We have given away enough in this province already.


(Ret) Capt Wilfred Bartlett

Green Bay South

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