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Minas Basin mill to close

A paper mill in Nova Scotia has announced it will shut down next month and throw 135 workers out of a job, saying it is succumbing to the same competitive pressures that plague most plants in the industry.


November 1, 2012
By The Canadian Press

A letter to employees posted on the website of Minas Basin Pulp and Power Company Ltd. said it hoped a restructuring of operations last year and changes to pricing would make the Hantsport plant sustainable.

”However, after several years of challenge, the board (of Scotia Investments Ltd.) has concluded that it is time to recognize the mill is at the end of its cycle,” said the letter. ”Long-term sustainability cannot be achieved.”

The company said challenges in the marketplace, competition from plants using newer and more efficient technology, and rising operational costs are too difficult to overcome.

It said 135 people will lose their jobs, though upwards of 40 employees will be moved to other companies within Scotia Investments, an investment holding company. Those companies include CKF Inc., a paper plate manufacturer also located in Hantsport, a town of 1,160.

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”We will begin working immediately with the remaining employees to find alternative options and support them through this transition and mill closure,” the letter said.

The letter said the company is not seeking any government assistance and would fulfil its employment obligations, including the pension plan.

About 100 workers at the plant are represented by Local 583 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union.

Chuck Shewfelt, the union’s Atlantic vice-president, said he was disappointed to learn of the layoffs, but not entirely shocked.

”We know that much of the industry is having problems in Nova Scotia,” he said in an interview from Moncton, N.B.

”We’ve seen NewPage (Port Hawkesbury Paper) recently reopen in a diminished capacity, we’ve seen the closure of the Bowater Mersey mill in Liverpool. So, yeah, there’s a lot of reason to be concerned.”

Shewfelt said the layoffs at Minas Basin leave the majority of workers whose skills are not easily transferable in a difficult position. He said they will have to choose between toughing it out in Hantsport, commuting to larger centres for work or moving away altogether.

The decision not to seek government assistance was ultimately the company’s, he added.

”It would be great to keep the plant going, but it has to be viable.”

The paper mill’s closure is the third in Nova Scotia in little over a year.

The former NewPage Port Hawkesbury paper mill in Point Tupper, N.S., shut down in September 2011, but it resumed operations last month under the new name Port Hawkesbury Paper with roughly half the workers it once employed.

In June, Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products (TSX:RFP) announced the closure of the Bowater paper mill in Brooklyn, N.S., throwing 320 people out of work.

Minas Basin Pulp and Power, a producer of recycled paperboard products, was founded in 1927.