FORT FRANCES, Ontario (From news reports) -- A grassroots community drive aimed at heading off the demolition of the Fort Frances mill has won the support of more than 2,000 people.
Local resident Christine Hampton started a petition a few weeks ago calling on the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry "to enforce the terms of the Sustainable Forest Licence held by Resolute Forest Products for the Crossroute Forest."
Considering that Fort Frances has a population of 8,000, Hampton says "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 petition will be delivered to Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford's office on Tuesday.
In a statement Monday, Hampton said the SFL for the Fort Frances-area forest requires Resolute to use the wood to supply the Fort Frances mill.
The mill was closed six years ago, but the company continues to harvest fibre and send it to its other mills in Ignace, Atikokan and Thunder Bay.
"If there was ever a question about Resolute's non-compliance with their forest licence, it was answered last month when Resolute announced plans to sell the mill to a company that would demolish it," stated Hampton.
She said "there is no way" Resolute should continue to hold the SFL under the circumstances.
In an interview last month, Resolute Vice-President Seth Kursman declined to comment on the provisions of the SFL. "It's not appropriate for me to start getting into that kind of detail on licences and which forest would possibly support a re-start of Fort Frances," he said.
The private investment group Repap Resources has expressed interest in reopening the mill to produce specialty paper, but negotiations between Repap and Resolute stalled at an early stage. One hurdle was Resolute's requirement that any interested buyer sign what the company described as a "standard" non-disclosure agreement, a condition that community leaders in Fort Frances said prevents buyers from talking to the provincial government about a wood supply.
Fort Frances officials and Unifor have maintained that there is enough wood in the Crossroute Forest to support the local mill as well as Resolute's other facilities.