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$50M in upgrades announced at Paper Excellence Vancouver Island mill, 100-plus employees to be brought back

CANADA (From news reports) -- A B.C.-based paper company says more than 100 workers will return to one of its mills on Vancouver Island after $50 million in upgrades were announced at the site.

Paper Excellence Canada curtailed operations at its mill in Crofton, B.C., in December, and now many of the workers affected by the curtailment will be recalled later this month.

The $50 million in upgrades include restarting the mill's C2 paper machine, which will now produce new water-resistant paper grades that are intended to replace single-use plastic products.


Other upgrades include modifying the mill's boiler to use more waste bark fuel instead of natural gas, which is expected to reduce more than 26,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year, or the equivalent of taking about 5,600 cars off the road annually.

Funding for the mill upgrades comes from Paper Excellence as well as the B.C. and federal governments.

Ottawa is providing $14.3 million in funding for the project, while the province is contributing $4.5 million.

"This investment will enhance the development of innovative products that replace banned plastics with renewable paper while significantly reducing carbon emissions," said Stew Gibson, chief operating officer for Paper Excellence Canada in a release.

The announcement comes just months after Paper Excellence announced that it was indefinitely curtailing paper operations at its Crofton paper mill.

In early December, paper production stopped at the facility, impacting at least 150 workers.

Paper Excellence says the curtailment was due to "weakening Chinese paper markets" and increasing production costs.

Moving forward, the company hopes its new upgrades will help diversify its products and increase its footing in the market.

"We thank our partners in both the federal and British Columbia governments for their support towards this important project and the benefits to the surrounding community," said Gibson.

"These contributions are absolutely essential to restarting the paper operations and securing these rural jobs at the site," he said.

B.C. Premier David Eby says the project is an example of industry and government working together to create a "sustainable" opportunity in the province's ailing forestry industry.

PRESS RELEASE FROM PAPER EXCELLENCE:

Paper Excellence will invest nearly $50 million to upgrade its Crofton mill's paper operations in British Columbia, Canada, and towards reductions in its carbon footprint. The investment sees the restart of its C2 paper machine putting over 100 employees back to making paper at the site. Paper operations were recently curtailed due to weakening Chinese paper markets and escalating input costs.

"This investment will enhance the development of innovative products that replace banned plastics with renewable paper while significantly reducing carbon emissions," said Stew Gibson, Chief Operating Officer for Paper Excellence Canada. Gibson said that the Company has been working closely with Provincial and Federal Governments to restore value-added manufacturing jobs at Crofton. "The Government of Canada has contributed $14.3 million through Natural Resources Canada's (NRCan) Investments in Forest Industry Transformation (IFIT) program and the Government of British Columbia contributed $4.5 million in provincial funds to help make today's announcement possible" added Gibson.

The C2 paper machine will be transformed to produce stronger, water-resistant paper grades which replace single-use plastics, while the investment also reduces natural gas consumption through more efficient use of waste bark fuel in the mill's boiler. The result is a simultaneously improvement in Crofton's competitiveness while reducing 26,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually equal to about 5,600 cars.

Overall, the $50 million investment diversifies markets, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and makes more efficient use of forest fibre.

Paper Excellence will be working alongside Unifor Local 1132 and PPWC Local 2 at Crofton over the coming days to determine all details regarding the restart plan, including the official restart date in January. At this time, the C3 paper machine at Crofton will remain indefinitely curtailed.

Paper Excellence, headquartered in British Columbia, is a diversified manufacturer of pulp and specialty, printing, writing, and packaging papers.

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