Crofton paper mill curtails operations indefinitely leaving dozens of workers in a lurch

CHEK File
The Catalyst Crofton mill is pictured on Dec. 12, 2021.

On Thursday, Paper Excellence Canada announced that paper operations at its Catalyst Crofton mill would be curtailed indefinitely.

The company had previously announced that the curtailment would last until February 2024, with similar shutdowns affecting the mill since October 2022.

READ PREVIOUS: Crofton paper mill curtailment extended into 2024

In a release Thursday, Paper Excellence says factors such as “market dynamics, inflationary pressures on raw materials, energy cost opportunities, and a lack of local domestic fibre supply resulted in substantial increases in operating costs.”

The decision to indefinitely curtail paper operations will leave 75 employees out of work.

“We recognize the difficulty this decision has placed on both our employees and the Cowichan Valley community,” said Blair Dickerson, Paper Excellence vice president of public affairs. “We will work to minimize negative impacts wherever possible.”

Pulp operations at the mill, which employ around 400 workers, will continue production during the paper curtailment.

‘Disappointed’

B.C. Jobs Minister Brenda Bailey told CHEK News she was saddened to hear of the indefinite closure, and that her father worked at the site while she was growing up in Nanaimo.

“I’m disappointed,” she said Thursday. “I’m really thinking about the workers that have been impacted.”

The province has “staff on the ground” in the area to help with retraining options, as well as retirement-bridging plans for workers older than 55, she said.

The B.C. and federal governments gave Paper Excellence $18.8 million in 2023 to retool one of the paper lines to a new type of product, with a promise from the company that the funding could help save 100 jobs.

The province says it now wants its share of the funding, $4.5 million, back.

“I expected Paper Excellence would deliver on the commitment they made, and it’s disappointing to see that they haven’t,” she said.

The company in a statement said it would abide by the terms of the funding arrangement with the two levels of government, given that it is no longer pursuing the upgrade.

Cole SorensonCole Sorenson
Rob ShawRob Shaw

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